With Ten Sports having to share the feed of the India-Pakistan cricket series with Prasar Bharati, private broadcasters are worried over further violations of their exclusive telecast rights.
It wasn't an empty threat when the government said it would come out with a law making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share the feed of events of national importance with the public service broadcaster. According to officials, work is on at the information and broadcasting ministry to draft a Bill to this effect.
"This will decide the future of the Indian broadcasting industry. It can kill the commercial viability of doing business in India," said the chief executive of a leading foreign broadcaster, which sees India as one of its main markets.
Although he dismisses the recent fracas as a one-off incident, Ten Sports owner Abdulrahman Bukhatir says channels spend a great deal of money on buying exclusive rights for events like the India-Pakistan series to recoup investments in other areas. "Doordarshan is to be blamed," he said.
According to broadcasting industry sources, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation is expected to take up the issue with the government. Officials also said Star Group chief executive officer Michelle Guthrie, during her meeting with senior officials, wanted to know the steps the government was planning in this regard.
An executive with another foreign broadcaster pointed out that the channel was working out a strategy so that even if it had to share the feed with Doordarshan, there was sufficient on-screen branding for the channel.
In such a case, the channel would device an in-stadia arrangement, wherein its brand and logo were shown prominently, a trick most international broadcasters use for syndicated programmes.
Broadcasting industry sources point out that this incident will also put a question mark on the business viability of broadcasters bidding for the telecast rights of cricket matches organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which will be up for grabs in June this year. It is expected that because of this uncertainty, the bid amounts can be much lower.
"Imagine a scenario where a private broadcaster gets the contract and the government insists that it should be shared with Doordarshan. All potential bidders are going to factor in this and will be cautious about it," the source said.
It needs to be seen how Set Max handles the matter during the next cricket World Cup and the ICC Trophy if the government insists on simultaneous broadcasting rights for Doordarshan for all the matches that India play.