How advertising money greed is killing Test cricket telecast in India | Daily News

How advertising money greed is killing Test cricket telecast in India

Imagine the twinkle in the eye of a brand manager if someone promises 100 opportunities to advertise in a single day. They will buy into the idea just as passionately as vegans have taken to avocado toast. That is why brands love cricket, especially in India.

In case of an ODI, there are at least a 100 over breaks. Plus there are more with the fall of wickets and drinks breaks. With T20 that number came down and that is precisely why strategic time-out had to be invented. To manipulate more on-air ad time. In the case of Test matches, the audiences have been dwindling in stadiums across the world; and the ones who are plugging in to watch on television are served a distinctly watered down version. The broadcast excellence expected from such a high-profile series as the ongoing England and India is entirely missing. Reason being greed.

Test cricket and its ebbs and flows are thrown out of the window for the viewer when between the over discussions, both on-field and by the commentators, are mercilessly chopped to make way for the latest ads of brands flush with venture capitalist money make unwelcome and repetitive appearances. The complaints and grumbling disapprovals from the viewers are because of the overplaying of advertisements, their increasingly long duration, and also the raised audio level during ads. The commercials are repeated several times in between the overs which break the continuity of the commentary and the innings. What’s more, it is often done at crucial stages just as the action is reaching an impending crescendo.

It is not that the production value is not fantastic. It is that ads are killing the joy of watching a Test. The arc and narrative of the innings are not appreciated. The live feed is still on, and the production team is doing a good job, but it is the channel which isn’t. When a wicket falls, even the replay is sacrificed to show more ads.

However good the commentary may be, the viewers are missing out and the panel is really good with Harsha Bhogle, Michael Atherton, Graeme Swann, Sunil Gavaskar and Alan Wilkins. Just yesterday, Virat Kohli’s long walk into the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, greeted by generous applause was not shown. It could have built a sense of anticipation for the touring captain walking in with his team in peril. The stage set for another dogfight between him and Jimmy Anderson. The commentators did their part but the broadcaster’s hunger for advertising money undid their work. The screen played an ad, and a spectacle was lost. It is akin to having a speed bump every 100 meters on a highway and a tollbooth every kilometer.

It is time that the advertising brands and their media planning see through this façade that the broadcasters - Sony Six in this case, are pulling. People tend to associate negatively with a brand if it is coming in the way of them enjoying their game.

The broadcasters across the board will always argue that if the ads are cut short, the limited availability of advertising time will only jack up the advertising rates many folds and this will be detrimental to brands. Well then, so be it! Additionally, it would have the impact of a sharp increase in subscription charges.

But, the subscribers in India are already paying the highest a-la-carte rates for sports channels (as much INR 75/month) as compared to other channels. The feed is not proportional to the fee. Another argument is that there’s a very high fee given to acquire the rights and they have to recover the costs. Again, it’s the broadcasters who are overbidding and bringing upon them this eventuality. First, they skew the market, then they exploit the viewer.

Since the cable television ecosystem in India is now entirely digital, the broadcasters also argue that a consumer has an absolute choice in choosing any channel and paying accordingly, there is no need to regulate advertising time. It is up to the subscriber to opt for a channel with commercials at a lower cost or pay a premium to watch a channel without ads. Again, this is a case of taking the cricket fan in India for granted. The subscribers were led to believe that no ad HD channels will be beaming a better experience but at a premium price point. When enough people subscribed, they instead sell the ad slots for a premium, leaving the viewers back to the same mediocre viewing.

Recently, global streaming platform Netflix heard a collective netizen groan at the first inkling of their plans on introducing their own shows’ ads between episodes. That’s how much the millennial are averse to product plugging. If there’s a streaming platform, they’ll move. But here too, for the England-India series, the streaming alternative of Sony Liv app is just marginally better.

If they found advertisers to run ads on the app, it will be exactly a cash grab like the television broadcast. It is only because brands don’t get enough eyeballs while streaming online that it is not overrun with ads. Before you forget, that’s a subscriber-based model too.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has regulations in place; and the broadcasters are in a clear breach of the Supreme Court of India covering a Test series with total disregard for honest broadcasting conduct. The constant barrage of advertisements during live sporting action impairs the viewing experience of a cricket fan. Which is why in my opinion, the advertising money greed is killing Test cricket telecast in India. – sk


 

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