Friday, January 28, 2011

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There is something fundamentally wrong with cricket telecast in India. The world's largest cricket consuming audience is being given a sub-standard product. Switch over to Star Cricket's telecast of Channel Nine's coverage of the Ashes and the current Australia-England one-day tournament if you don't believe me. In the way cricket is telecast in India we are only seeing one aspect of the game and that is ball by ball action. What we don't see anymore, is the bowlers reaction to a wicket, or a batsman raising his bat on the way out after a fantastic knock. All these moments of the game, which are very much a part and parcel of the game, are cruelly snatched away from us by a LG or Asian Paints advertisement. It has become so bad now, that when the telecast comes back after an advertisement, the bowler is in mid run-up, and when it cuts to advertisement, the fielder has barely gathered the ball before throwing it to the keeper.


As a cricket consumer myself I can frankly say that I am pissed off at Ten Cricket and Asian Paints, I wouldn't want to use Royale Play to paint my wall, because you buggers spoilt my match. But what choice do I have, unlike with Royale Play, where I can chose to go with Berger instead, I don't really have that option when it comes to cricket. If ten cricket is broadcasting the match, I have no choice but to pay an extra thirty bucks to Airtel, and ask them to give me ten cricket. And after doing so, what do I get, another advertisement fest, which cuts out at least 20% of the viewable action in each game. It's getting to the point where it seems more ads and less cricket, with the pop up ads jumping onto the screen and destroying the cricket field, leaving me aghast at the tastelessness and the intrusion.


Who is to blame for this situation, some would say that it's the corporates who buy these advertisement spots, who want ads in every corner of the television screens, or is it the telecasters for being unscrupulous in creating advertisement spots and robbing the viewing public of a holistic cricketing experience, some would blame the BCCI or other cricketing boards, for selling rights at such astronomical figures leaving telecasters with no other viable revenue option. In my opinion it is the cricketing public in India which is to blame.


As a consumer we Indians, are extremely price, rather than quality driven. If the price is right, we usually buy it, quality is not a determining factor. Why Sky Sports in England and Channel Nine in Australia can still provide excellent top quality coverage and keep advertisements down to nothing is due to the fact that their business model is a subscriber driven one. With the advent of DTH and CAS, India is moving towards a subscriber driven revenue model, but this is more of an urban phenomena in India and has not yet penetrated the majority of the cricket viewing audience. Without a subscriber driven model and at the current rates at which cricket boards sell rights, there is no way for telecasters to make money without copious amounts of advertising. This is displayed by the fact that during the IPL, you could get an ad free HD coverage of the action, at an extra cost. This is going to be available from ESPNSTAR even during the upcoming world cup.


Some may call this point of view a bit pedantic, in the fact, that how does it matter if we miss a little bit of the reactions of players, celebration of bowlers etc., as long as we are getting a match at a cheap price. Well I would just like to say that, would the enormity of what happened at the Eden Gardens in 1996 against Sri Lanka been the same in our minds, had we not seen Kambli walk off the pitch crying, and instead had gone straight to an advertisement of Lays. The beauty, poetry and artistry of the game, of any game, lies in the human reaction, which at that moment of pure joy or anguish, is as genuine a moment as any of us will witness in our increasingly artificial and mechanical world. The joy and anguish of victory and defeat is something which cannot be divorced from any sport, which is sadly being done with cricket in India, and it's about time that the people, who are supposed to be the guardians of the game, do something about it.

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