Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) should not try to compromise the television deal with any other company other than Ten Sports for many reasons. The Dubai-based company may have quoted a low figure for the three Tests against India but SLC should understand that money is not everything. The friendship and trust built over the years is vital and cannot be bargained just for a few dollars more.
SLC may be hard pressed at the moment for finances, but they cannot afford to make a kill solely on the Indian series. They ought to look at the bigger picture.
Ten Sports has been SLC’s Broadcast and Production partner for over a decade. They are the longest broadcasting partner in the history of SLC. Over the years Ten Sports has encouraged and developed the SLC brand very well and been an excellent custodian of its product. All productions are in High Definition (HD). With its reach both in terms of broadcast and syndication partners Ten Sports has ensured that Sri Lankan cricket reaches all parts of the world.
To say the least Ten Sports has never dithered on their loyalty towards SLC and have always delivered over and above what would be expected of any broadcaster. SLC should also remember that Ten Sports has stood by them in trying financial circumstances by advancing funds when their cash flows were strained – being flexible on scheduling of additional matches etc.
Ten Sports was the lone bidder for the rights for the Indian Test series which is another instance of their steadfast commitment to SLC when multiple of broadcasters in the region chose not to even participate in the bid process. Any process other than bidding such as direct negotiations runs the risk of falling prey to vested interests, and would not be able to meet the standards of transparency.
Given the various scandals the SLC has experienced with other broadcasters over the years it is even more important to ensure that the process of granting rights are not only done but also appears to be done independently. The credibility of SLC and of the Interim Committee is at stake. Negotiations with parties who have not even participated in the rights bid will result in serious market players becoming non-participants in future SLC bidding processes, thereby hoping to pick up the rights through a negotiated transaction and thereby diluting the potential value of SL. Direct negotiations means lack of transparency.
The rationale for the bid value set out by Ten Sports is as follows:
(a) One event deal with no cable subscription upside. We can only rely on advertising and international channel syndication income and as the series consist of 3 Tests it is the least favoured format in terms of commercial value.
(b) Pricing from our previous tours cannot be compared to this tour as those tours consisted of a full tour, consisting of limited over cricket besides Test matches, and were also producing cable distribution income.
(c) SLC was asked to include any future India series as part of the current contract but the request was turned down. If request had been accepted we could have included the series in our larger revenue deals at the outset.
(d) Substantial drop in overseas cricket syndication prices being paid by international channels. There is very limited interest in Test matches.
(e) Strict production specifications levied by SLC resulting in substantial production expenditure.
(f) Shortage of time to market and commercialize the series.
(g) The series being held after the 2015 World Cup and the IPL – the customer budgets have all been exhausted.
(h) The India vs Bangladesh and Zimbabwe vs. India series were announced and rights awarded much earlier (before the Sri Lanka-India Test series) and are already in the market selling with both series consisting of ODI matches and being treated by clients as far more attractive than just a 3-Test match tour.
(i) Monsoon in August is the utmost ill-timed for advertisers who have traditionally refrained to advertise during this period.
(j) The perception in the market is that the weather in Sri Lanka is also uncertain during this period and games will be truncated and hence would not have interest and they will not be able to derive full value on their investments.
SLC should not forget that the Cricketers’ Benefit Fund Series (CBFS), the owners of Ten Sports where Qasim Noorani, father of present Ten Sports international right holders chairman Zahid Noorani played a prominent role in inviting Sri Lankan teams to Sharjah during the 80’s and 90’s to play competitive cricket against international teams of very high standard. This was done in a period where the stock of Sri Lanka cricket was not on a high.
This provided valuable exposure and brought in funds for SLC to develop cricket. Ex Sri Lanka players were provided with financial benefits. The experience gained in Sharjah was primarily responsible for Sri Lanka winning the World Cup in 1996.
Before jumping the gun and look for broadcasters outside Ten Sports, SLC should ask itself the question if money was everything why did they go for a low bid in awarding local terrestrial broadcast rights for the next three years to state-owned Rupavahini Corporation declining a substantially higher bid from Carlton Sports Network (CSN).
SLC are treading on treacherous grounds if they try to bypass the bid made by Ten Sports and leave themselves open to litigation which they can least afford at this moment of time. Saner counsel should prevail and a decision should be taken in the best interest of both parties so that long-standing relations are not strained.