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Dish TV warns Competition Commission on Star India’s monopoly of cricket

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-08-2017 Harveen Ahluwalia

New Delhi: Ahead of the auction of the Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights, direct-to-home (DTH) platform Dish TV has asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to prevent Star India from monopolising cricket broadcast rights.

In a letter dated 21 August, the Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd-owned Dish TV said that Star is a potential bidder in the upcoming auction and will thereby attain “the status of sole holder of the telecast rights of all the major cricketing events,” which is anti-competitive and anti-consumer.

The letter was also marked to the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). At present, Star India has the television, mobile and internet rights to all BCCI-organized cricket matches held between 2012 and 2018, in addition to the rights for the bilateral series of the cricket boards of Australia, England and Bangladesh. The broadcaster also holds global media rights for Asia Cup and all events organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

“A perusal of the recent developments in the broadcasting sector would reveal that Star is systematically moving towards elimination of competition and creation of monopoly in the cricket telecast segment. They intend to exploit their monopoly status for maximising their subscription and advertisement revenue at the cost of consumers,” said Jawahar Goel, chairman and managing director at Dish TV, in the letter.

Star India was unavailable for comment on the matter.

At present, there are five sports broadcasters in India—Star India, Sony Pictures Network, Discovery Communications, Nimbus Communications Ltd and state-owned Doordarshan. Last year, Zee sold its sports network TEN Sports to Sony Pictures Network in an all-cash deal.

Goel added that out of the 270 cricket matches to be played in India (excluding ICC and Asia Cup) between 2012 and 2019, Star holds the broadcast rights to 191 matches. “The above is the position when Star does not have the telecast rights for IPL,” he said, in the letter.

“Once Star acquires the telecast rights for IPL as well, not only will the market share in terms of viewership of Star skyrocket but distribution platforms such as DTH and multi system operators will have no choice but to subscribe to the Star Sports channels for cricket content,” he added.

There are differing views on Star’s dominance of sports broadcast rights.

“It is fair to ask the regulators to intervene. It will be a big cricket monopoly otherwise, and since broadcasters pay huge amounts to acquire these rights, they have to raise channel prices,” said an executive at a sports marketing firm, who did not want to be identified.

“We are not even sure if Star will win the IPL rights. If it does, it will not be a permanent situation. The media rights for BCCI matches will be up for grabs next year again. This is a slippery slope. Nobody can assure that there is a level-playing field in this case,” said a top executive at a sports channel who did not want to be named.

The IPL bidding process is scheduled to close on 28 August and the last date for buying bid documents is 24 August. Both television and digital media rights of IPL are up for grabs for a five-year period from 2018 to 2022.

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