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|May 5, 1999||
Satellite wars hit World Cup coverageThe Rediff Team
Off field events are likely to provide as much tamasha as onfield ones, during the World Cup.
For starters, there is the faceoff between cable operators and the ESPN-Star combine. Readers will recall that almost two years ago, the two groups had gone to war when ESPN decided to become a pay channel. At that time, cable operators had boycotted the network for almost a fortnight, before the issue was amicably resolved. ESPN, from that point on, has been charging cable operators Rupees 14 per subscriber per month, to show its sports feed.
Scratch 'amicably' -- the wounds have apparently been festering. And cable operators now see their chance to hit back.
With DD's Sports channel, launched earlier this year, scheduled to cover the World Cup, cable operators are threatening to blank out the ESPN-Star combine on days featuring India games, and only show the DD feed.
This hits the ESPN-Star combine where it hurts -- having laid out an enormous sum to orchestrate its coverage, the two premier sports channels now run the risk of being blanked out on days featuring India matches; in other words, on precisely those days when they can look forward to maximum advertising revenue.
And since India is easily the hotbed of corporate spending, that is a huge blow -- the other regions covered by the ESPN-Star feed are not likely to produce the kind of advertising revenue that India routinely generates.
Cable operators indicate that this is the first protest against sports channels who arbitrarily hike their license fees -- and the DD sports channel has given them just the right weapon to hit the channels where it hurts, in the pocketbook.
Responding to questions about whether viewers will be upset at not getting the kind of quality coverage Star and ESPN provide, a spokesman for a Mumbai-based cable operating network pointed out that DD's sports channel will be relaying the same WorldTel feed that Star and ESPN are accessing, so the viewer won't miss out on that aspect.
Meanwhile, DD is fighting its own battle with BBC, and that relates to customisation of the commentary.
Thanks to a mess-up in communications on DD's part, it is apparently too late in the day to set up the customised feed it had planned.
As planned, the DD commentary team would comprise Ravi Shastri, Barry Richards, Imran Khan, and guest commentators from the countries India would be playing against. However, it increasingly looks as though DD will be forced to go with the BBC feed -- and there is a fear that the BBC commentary team may prove largely unintelligible to the average cricket fan in India's hinterlands.
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