If India's Australia tour gets cancelled, advertisers will ask the broadcasters for a refund.
Sports broadcaster ESPN-STAR Sports stands to lose over Rs 90 crore (Rs 900 million) of advertising revenue, if the ongoing India-Australia cricket series gets cancelled.
STAR Cricket, the host channel for the ongoing test match series has already raked in Rs 17-20 crore (Rs 270-200 million) from the first two test matches.
The decision of the Indian cricket team to stay on in Sydney (the venue for the recently-concluded second test match), till the final hearing of the three-test match ban for its bowler Harbhajan Singh gets sorted out, threatens the future of the remaining tour.
India came to Australia in December for a three-month tour involving four test matches, one Twenty20 match and a 15 day One Day International triangular series with Sri Lanka.
When contacted, R C Venkateish, managing director, ESPN Software India, said that as the matter is related to the International Cricket Council and the two concerned cricket boards, he would not like to comment on it.
However, media agency sources said that in the worst-case scenario of the tour getting cancelled, advertisers will look at other avenues on the ESPN STAR Sports network to redeem the amount locked in.
Said a leading advertiser of the matches, "We are of course are protected from any loss. However, it is too early to comment on the future course of action".
"The ICC does have provisions of protecting its broadcasters in the event of any cancellation of cricket fixtures under extreme situations," said a media expert.
According to advertising industry sources, leading advertisers including Nokia, Airtel, Hero Honda, Perfetti, and Pepsi, among others, have already consumed advertising spots worth nearly Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) during the two-test matches and related programming on STAR Cricket, the host channel for the test matches.
However, media buying agencies are hopeful that the issue will be settled and it will actually encourage more advertisers to come in.
"We are hoping that the matter will be resolved. In my opinion, advertisers will not seek a rebate because public interest is high and viewership will only go up," said source from Madison.
Overall, advertisers have locked in about Rs 50-55 crore (Rs 500-550 million) for the test series, while the ESPN sales team is currently negotiating with advertisers for the 15 ODIs in which India will play a confirmed six matches.
The triangular ODI series involving India, Australia and Sri Lanka is likely to fetch another Rs 55-60 crore (Rs 550-600 million) for the sports broadcaster, industry sources said.