Star Sports emerging monopoly over cricket rights a matter of concern: Jawahar Goel

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Dish TV chairman and MD Jawahar Goel has expressed deep concern over Star Sports emerging monopoly in the cricket broadcast rights in India.  The broadcast industry veteran has warned that Star Sports will establish a cricket broadcast monopoy in India if the Rupert Murdoch’s 21St Century Fox-owned network manages to bag the Indian Premier League rights.

The rights’ bid for the five-year (2018-2022) cycle is scheduled to be decided on September 1.

Goel has sent a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Competition Commission of India and the Board of  Control for Cricket in India warning them against the Star Sports potential absolute majority on cricket broadcast rights.

Even though the 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch hinted that Star India will not make an aggressive bid for the IP rights.

Also read: James Murdoch hints at ‘not too aggressive’ IPL bid

The letter reads: “Star also has the Global Media Rights for Asia Cup (Asia Cup, Women’s Asia Cup, Emerging Asia Cup and U19 Asia Cup) including TV, audio, internet and mobile rights for all territories globally for the period from 2016 to 2023, the Global broadcast rights for all ICC Events which includes exclusive live and highlights rights across all platforms for ICC major events – the ICC Cricket World Cup and its qualifiers, the ICC Women’s World Cup, the ICC World Twenty 20 and its qualifiers, the ICC Champions Trophy and the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup for the period from 2015-2023. In addition to the above, Star also has the rights for all the bilateral series of the Cricket Broads of Australia, England and Bangladesh and today the situation is such that except for Indian Premier League (IPL), Star has the rights for all the cricketing events to be shown in India for the next 6-7 years.”

“With this objective in view and in order to further strengthen its monopolistic position in the field of media distribution rights, the Star has initiated various measures which would have far reaching ramifications and shall have adverse impact on every stakeholder in the broadcasting industry, starting from the distributors of the TV channels like the DTH operators and ultimately the end consumers. The history of the media industry is witness to the fact that all the actions initiated by Star till date have always been to economically concentrate the power through acquisition of Cricket Broadcast Rights and thereby create a monopoly in the market to gain huge commercial advantage at the expense of the Consumers and the Distribution Industry. Since this is a very critical issue, it requires immediate attention of BCCI.

“In order to serve its long term objective of charging the exorbitant price for its sports channels containing cricketing content, the Star has challenged the authority/jurisdiction of TRAI itself to fix the price of TV channels and the matter is pending before the Hon’ble High Court of Judicature at Madras,” the letter alleges.

The letter also mentions that DTH operator Tata Sky, which has moved court against TRAI’s Tariff Order, is working in cahoots with Star India.

In his letter Goel has also pleaded with the BCCI to safeguard and protect competition in the industry.   “We would expect BCCl led by the COA to act in a manner so as to safeguard and protect the competition in the industry as well as to prevent the creation of any kind of monopoly to the detriment of public interest. The acquisition of the IPL telecast rights by Star would lead to a situation where there will be an absolute monopoly thereby leading to dominance by Star in the field of cricketing telecast rights where Star will not only compel the distributors of TV channels such as the DTH operators to pay exorbitant price for their channels but also make the ultimate consumers to shell more and more money from their pockets. Such a situation would not only be anti-competitive but also anti- consumers as well.”

Goel has also tried to substantiate his claims by providing graphical information and broadcast industry data.