DSport deals with SLC and Lagardère to show India matches
By Simon Ward
DSport, the Indian sports television channel owned by Discovery Communications, is to show cricket matches involving the national team for the first time after acquiring rights to the Nidahas Trophy, a tri-nations Twenty20 competition to be held in Sri Lanka in March.
The deal with Sri Lanka Cricket, presaged this week by its president Thilanga Sumathipala, was brokered with the aid of Lagardère Sports, the international sports agency acting as the global marketing consultant of the national governing body.
The event involving Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh is being organised to celebrate the host country’s 70th year of independence, and all seven matches will take place at the R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo, starting with Sri Lanka against India on 6 March.
The teams will play each other twice in the round-robin stage, with the top two sides progressing to the final on 18 March.
DSport, which launched almost a year ago, has started to build a profile in cricket with acquisitions including last September’s Twenty20 series between Pakistan and an ICC World XI in Lahore and the forthcoming Pakistan Super League.
However, it is likely to attract a much higher audience for the Nidahas Trophy given the involvement of India.
Karan Bajaj, senior vice-president and general manager, South Asia, Discovery Communications India, said: “We are delighted to partner with Sri Lankan Cricket board and showcase this important tourney to the cricket aficionados in India. NIDAHAS Trophy 2018 will also mark the first time when the Men in Blue [India] will feature live on DSPORT. This will give a further fillip to the channel and bolster our efforts to showcase world class sporting events to our fans in the country.”
DSport could also be in the mix for the rights to India’s home matches from this year onwards, which are set to go on the market in March, albeit this would mean going up against two much more experienced cricket broadcasters in Star India and Sony Pictures Networks.
The rights to test matches, one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals played in India are presently held by Star in a six-year, Rs38.51-billion ($602 million) deal that is now expiring, but, after its large outlay on the Indian Premier League, it remains to be seen if the broadcaster has sufficient funds to retain them.
Last September, Star won the global rights to the IPL for five years starting in 2018 with a winner-takes-all offer to the Board of Control for Cricket in India of Rs163.5 billion.
With regard to the India home matches, there is expected to be competition from Sony, which lost out narrowly to Star in 2012, and has cash to spare after losing the rights to the IPL, which it has televised in India since the launch of the competition in 2008.
Sony is showing the present South Africa-India series and last October snapped up the rights to international and domestic cricket in Australia for the next six years.
However, the growing profile of Twenty20 tournaments such as the IPL, at the expense of international cricket, has raised doubts over whether media companies will be willing to match the Rs400 million per match put up by Star six years ago, with the suggestion being that it has not made money on the deal.
The reserve price in the forthcoming auction could be Rs300 million per match or lower, and broadcasters are looking at paying no more than Rs350 million per match, according to industry sources cited by Indiantelevision.com.
Meanwhile, Star India has unveiled plans to offer this year’s IPL in virtual reality, a first for the tournament.
Details have yet to be fleshed out, but there will be VR broadcasts of matches available to viewers with compatible mobile devices and headsets on the video streaming platform Hotstar.
Viewers will also be able to select different camera angles and adjust their devices to get a 360-degree view of the stadium.
Star has already announced its intention to show IPL matches across 10 sports channels in six languages in India, as it seeks to increase the reach of the popular Twenty20 competition to 700 million viewers.
The tournament itself takes place from 4 April to 31 May, but the broadcaster has already shown its commitment by showing this month’s player retention event.
The announcement by the eight franchise teams of the players they are keeping for the 2018 competition pulled in 8.1 million viewers, comprising 4.1 million on Star Sports television channels and 4 million on Hotstar.
Sanjay Gupta, the managing director of Star India, said yesterday: “The Vivo IPL 2018 will be a six-month-long fiesta with new-age technology putting fans at the heart of the experience. We are confident that the Vivo IPL 2018, as re-imagined by Star India, will empower viewers, advertisers, and the media and entertainment ecosystem of India with greater convenience and viewing pleasure, audience deliveries and all-round growth.”