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Prasar Bharti’s latest move puts pressure on sports streaming apps

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In Short:

Prasar Bharati is planning an OTT service, but its impact on sports broadcasters is uncertain. There are concerns about reduced monetization if live sports are shared. The platform aims to curate news, entertainment, and possibly sports content. Recent developments indicate that private broadcasters are unsure about the platform’s strategic direction and how it will operate. Sports rights, especially those not considered national importance, could be affected.

Engaging News Rewrite

While Prasar Bharati has not explicitly stated whether sports will be featured on the proposed OTT (over the top) service, private broadcasters fear that mandatory sharing of sporting event feeds could severely diminish their ability to make money from sports rights.

The Concerns of Private Broadcasters

A top executive at a broadcast network, on condition of anonymity, said that if sports broadcasters are forced to share the digital feed of live sports events with this OTT platform, it would be the end of sports broadcasting.

“Sports rights are sold at a very high premium today because they are the only events which command appointment viewing and male audiences,” the executive said. “Naturally, they generate significantly higher ad revenue per rating point delivered. If the same games are shared on DD’s OTT platform free of cost, you can bid adieu to all the monetisation.”

In 2022, Disney Star committed $3 billion for four-year rights (2024-2027) to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) tournaments, while Viacom18 secured media rights for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)-run international and domestic matches for ₹5,963 crore over the next five years.

“While both Viacom18 and Disney Star are currently streaming sports for free on their OTT apps for mobile users, there might come a time when they would want to charge a subscription fee,” said another broadcaster, also requesting anonymity. “But if the same games are also streamed live on DD’s OTT service, why would anyone pay these private broadcasters?”

The Potential of Prasar Bharati’s OTT Platform

Sources familiar with Prasar Bharati‘s plans indicate that the platform aims to curate a wide range of content, including news, entertainment, and, potentially, sports.

An email query sent to Prasar Bharati remained unanswered till press time.

The Need for a Public OTT Platform

Prasar Bharati’s move follows recommendations from a parliamentary panel in May 2023, which emphasized the need to regulate content on private OTT platforms to ensure it respects the cultural sensitivities of the country.

While pointing out that the public broadcaster’s move is aimed at addressing growing concerns on private OTT platforms’ content, Kaushik Moitra, partner at law firm Bharucha & Partners, agrees with private sports broadcasters’ concern.

“Sports broadcasters are required to share signals of nationally important events with Prasar Bharati for retransmission,” said Moitra. “The relevant law provides rights over DTH (direct-to-home) networks but does not explicitly mention OTT platforms or streaming services, which would need to be brought under its ambit to address this.” Moitra added that this may put sports broadcasters in a “vulnerable place.”

What the Notification Says

In its latest notification of 2022, the ministry of information & broadcasting has notified all Olympics Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and specified events relating to cricket, tennis, hockey, football, badminton, kabaddi, Khelo India games, and other events relating to shooting, archery, and international events organized by National Sports Federations recognized by the Union government as games of national importance.

In cricket, this includes all official one-day, twenty-20, and test matches played by the Indian men’s and women’s cricket teams and all ICC test matches featuring India.

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