Shailesh Kapoor: World Cup Coverage: The Ticks & The Crosses

20 Mar,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s the World Cup season and cricket is back into the forefront, leading conversations and consumption across media. The ratings of some of the key India games in this year’s World Cup have proven that the issue with declining ratings of ODI cricket in recent years is not about a loss of interest in the sport as such, but a rejection of meaningless cricket series that are played to generate revenue for the sport.


A lot has changed on the broadcasting and technology front since the 2011 World Cup. The host broadcaster (Star Sports) has four sports channels, and for the first time, watching cricket online has been promoted as a genuine viewing option. Commentary feeds are available in multiple Indian languages, and more than 50 ex-Indian cricketers have been gainfully employed by Star Sports to cater to India’s linguistic diversity. All matches are available in High Definition, and we even have the 4K-technology option available.


So, all’s well when it comes to live telecast of cricket. Despite match timings not being primetime-friendly in India, Star Sports has done a fair job of putting across a clinical performance on-air.


But there’s a lot left to be desired outside the live hours. And here, I go beyond Star Sports. We have half a dozen sports channels besides Star Sports, and all of them have ignored the World Cup emphatically and whole-heartedly. In a healthy competitive environment, you would expect other sports channels to do strong guerilla programming around a big tournament such as the Cricket World Cup, to capture viewership in the non-playing hours.


Star Sports attempted that in the 2003 World Cup. They had no access to match footage. But they created pre- and post-match shows for the purists, who would rather watch Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar discuss the game with Harsha Bhogle, than watch the Mandira Bedi show. The idea may not have a runaway success, but it was an excellent attempt at building equity around a big sports event within a reasonable cost.


That we have no such ideas this year is the collateral damage of a monopolistic environment. Star Sports has gained every inch of the sporting turf over the last five years, acquiring all possible rights that have come their way. If they manage to bag the IPL rights when they come up renewal next in a couple of years, their dominance of sports broadcasting in India will be complete in every respect.


Sports broadcasting has not been the most profitable business in India, and it is understandable that a giant like Star can pump in the investments which stand-alone brands like Ten or Neo struggled to.


But the one area where Star Sports too may have missed the trick is the non-playing hours programming. All four channels play the same shows every night, which are essentially based on over-analysis of already over-analyzed games. The ancillary programming content in magazine formats is not more than 15-20 hours, I suspect. And a lot of this is content that’s not even fresh.


Star Sports currently resembles a multiplex when a Salman Khan film releases. You may have six screens, but all you get is one film, one type of content. More channels don’t always mean more variety!


News channels, meanwhile, have gainfully employed another 50-60 ex-India cricketers, including some very obscure ones, to run the same format which Star Sports runs on its channels – talking heads discussing today’s game and then tomorrow’s game.


Come 2019 World Cup, that’s one change I’d hope to see, whereby the non-playing hours experience of a viewer is a more enriching one. And if some other channels don’t stand up to get their pound of flesh from the event, I hope there will be online options beyond ESPNcricinfo that would achieve the same.


Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.

Today's Top Stories