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Will the dynamics of cricket rights change in the new power equation?

MUMBAI: Sports broadcasters are keenly watching the recent power tussle between the BCCI-England Cricket Board-Cricket Australia combine and the other cricket boards. Threatening the existing financial order is also the bi-lateral Future Tours Programme (FTP) proposal of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

In the agreement and aftermath of these two forces, the economics of the four sports networks in India could change. The value of cricket rights for contests among the top-rung teams is likely to rise. And if BCCI exercises its power as the big daddy to have more games in India, Star India would be the beneficiary.

MP & Silva co-CEO Peter Hutton believes that the current broadcast contracts could change in value depending on the ongoing schedule negotiations.

Peter Hutton“If India offers additional tours to countries during this period to help win their support, then some of the existing broadcast contracts could considerably increase in value. The same is true in reverse if India uses its freedom to decide not to visit a market,” says Hutton, an old hand in sports broadcasting.

The broadcast rights value of the top cricket boards is likely to see an upsurge if the bi-lateral FTP agreement proposal formulated by the ICC’s Financial & Commercial Affairs (F&CA) working group position paper is finally approved by ICC members.

The biggest impact of the proposed bi-lateral agreements is that it will weed out economically unviable bi-lateral tours involving weaker teams. The matches between top-tier teams like India, Australia, South Africa and England will increase in frequency, now that there is no ICC FTP compulsion to adhere to.

Hutton believes that what works for broadcasters, boards and players is a clear schedule for the next few years so that income, costs and workload can clearly be anticipated.

“Hopefully this discussion paper will pave the route to that solution. If India uses these discussions to have a defined and expanded period of home tours every year, then there is a clear benefit to Star India, although the additional costs of extra days of cricket (which are fixed in the current contract) do not necessarily translate into the same additional amount of income per day of cricket.”

The Big Three of the cricketing world, the BCCI, England Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA), stand to benefit the most if the proposal that allows the cricket boards to play each other based on bi-lateral FTP agreement is accepted by the ICC members.

Star is expected to gain big as it has the rights to India, England and Australia cricket. Incidentally, the three boards are at the forefront to bring about structural changes to the ICC that will shift the balance of power in their favour with the BCCI enjoying unbridled power.

The bilateral agreements are a shift from the existing norm of a central agreement system between the ICC and its member boards. The agreements between member boards will be legally binding and bankable and will run for the same period as the ICC commercial rights cycle (2015–2023).

“If it means more cricket between the top teams, then the value per day should rise as long as there’s no overkill and not too many similar games,” says Hutton.

Star India COO Sanjay Gupta believes that the value of rights will be determined by the number of quality of matches in the FTP.

sanjay-gupta“We are satisfied with the current FTP in terms of our properties. The main thing is about the quality of cricket being played. If it is good, then viewer interest will be there. But if it is not, then viewership will be affected. For instance, the Test matches between India and the West Indies finished in three days. That is because the West Indies did not send a strong enough team,” explains Gupta.

Gupta is not concerned about the fatigue factor as long as a quality team visits India. “If viewers feel that India will win easily, then the interest level will be less. I don’t think India playing one country several times is an issue as long as the quality of play is there for viewers to see,” asserts Gupta.

He, however, concedes that the rights to the weak cricketing sides like New Zealand and the West Indies could be impacted depending on how often India goes. “I agree that there could be some impact there. Otherwise, if you see, the principles that the ICC is supporting are from an administrative point of view,” Gupta admits.

He also underlined the fact that the bidders for ICC rights would factor in the Champions Trophy while bidding for the property. “Both Test and ODI formats have value. Right now, I have not done the math to see what the impact will be. But people will bid keeping in mind that there will be an ODI championship. The ICC would have also been discussing the feasibility of a Test event,” he stated.

Hutton, though, feels that the discussions on a Test championship are different for the various markets. “The concept is very attractive in the UK (as long as England participates), while clearly the advertising value is not as high as its one-day equivalents for the subcontinent,” he affirms.