MUMBAI: "Now that the likes of Facebook, Reliance Jio and Airtel have opened their cards as it were in bidding for the IPL rights, could the BCCI's India cricket rights, when they come up for tender, be the next big battle stage in the Indian digital content arena? We think not."
We reference the concluding paragraph of a report SportzPower put out on September 6 which can be accessed .
Whether our contention proves correct or not time will tell. But at least as far as Star India is concerned, its chairman and CEO Uday Shankar, in an interview to Sportstar, has given a clear pointer to how his network views the state of BCCI cricket, the rights to which the 21st Century Fox subsidiary holds till March 2018.
To a query about the 2018-2022 cycle of BCCI rights, Shankar said: "I don’t think the next BCCI invitation to tender will be for more than five years. There is huge excitement when Australia, England, South Africa and Pakistan come to India. It’s not the same with Zimbabwe, that’s only to be expected. But there is no doubt that Test cricket has only limited appeal and the biggest challenge would be to sell Test match cricket; there will be good value though for ODI and Twenty20."
Shankar further expanded on his point by stating: "Given the state of Test cricket, sometime one doesn’t even find one thousand people watching it in the stadium. That should give an idea of what’s the level of interest for Test cricket. If you are not watching it in the stadium, you are not seeing it on television. If one wants to pay the same value that I pay for a Twenty20, it will be tough."
Shankar's reponse to the natural follow-up question, whether T20 was the real future of cricket from a broadcaster’s point of view, is revealing: "I think what happened between Test and ODI cricket gives a good insight here. People said ODI will kill Test cricket; it did not, it only expanded the fan base for cricket. One has to be a serious connoisseur to understand five days of Test cricket. The real challenge is to wait for five days, during the day, for an outcome. Twenty20 is amazing, played in the night and it is very dynamic. I think Twenty20 will have to drive the game. The cricket authorities, not in India, but globally are living in some kind of a strange world where they believe that their commitment is to Test cricket. They should believe that their commitment is to cricket and to its fans. That’s the dilemma for them now."
Shankar has sent a clear message to not just world body ICC but the BCCI as well here. It is only when Australia, England, South Africa and Pakistan tour India that there is serious money available for rights holders to extract. So expecting them to pay the accept whatever the BCCI has to offer by way of home tours (no disrespect to the likes of Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, etc...) is not going to pass muster anymore.