England Pakistan series unlikely to get broadcast on PTV

By Our Correspondent - July 25, 2020

Pakistan Television is most unlikely to air the Pakistan versus England series 2020. State broadcaster will be blacked out. It wouldn’t be the first time.

In 2018, SPNI hadn’t sublicensed rights of the Pakistan against South Africa series. It is evident the drama will be repeated again.

Sony Pictures Network India and previously Zee owned Ten Sports have been exploiting the government owned PTV. Strangely, as reported it wasn’t a one-ended affair. People within the PTV had helped Ten Sports to consolidate within the Pakistani territory.

Mr. Zahid Noorani had personal friends within PEMRA, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Pakistan Television. He had also kept PCB on his side, first through the ex-COO, and later bringing in play his personal friendship with the incumbent Chairman.

It is evident from the news reports appearing in Indian websites and even in the Pakistan local newspapers, SPNI (Ten Sports) interests were being served and the information provided gives circumstantial evidence about confidential documents leaking out from PTV.

Recently, there was a report in an Indian website giving elaborate details of PTV owing money to global broadcasters and being a habitual defaulter. Inside details of the pending payments were shared.

This scribe has learnt Ten Sports (Zee owned) and later sold out to SPNI had left PTV devastated by signing a MOU between the two broadcasters such that they not only controlled the content but also represented PTV taking decisions on their behalf at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Going through the MOU leaves one smacked how PTV could ever sign such a document where their independence was left subservient to Ten Sports (SPNI).

By holding PTV hostage under a MOU, Ten Sports (SPNI) had successfully ousted Geo Super a local Pakistan sports channel from the market. One wonders why Ten Sports a channel having landing rights in the name of Tower Two a Karachi based company whenever in the phase of renewal of license gets stuck. It happened to them in 2009 and now their license having expired in December 2018, they still await clearance from the Ministry of Interior.

Ten Sports has only been surviving on the edge because of the absurd rules where they could continue operations until the decision on security clearance was taken or the license was renewed.

PTV on the other hand in 2015 as informed were cash starved and required financial support therefore, they entered into a joint bid for acquiring the PCB Rights with Ten Sports (later SPNI).

Ten Sports (later SPNI) picked up the global rights and shared these with PTV only for the Pakistani territory. When PCB’s Media Rights Agreement was signed in 2015, so was the MOU between the two broadcasters, people representing PTV were facilitating Ten Sports leaving their own organization fully dependent on an Indian owned channel.

As reported, the man who had made initial deals with Ten Sports and quite evidently hand in glove with them was removed from his post at the PTV. Troubles started with the new incumbent at the Pakistan Television didn’t toe Ten Sports’ line.

After PTV was blacked out during Pakistan’s tour to South Africa, the new man in office had convinced his management not to have Ten Sports as a carrier of Pakistan Super League. As it is understood, Blitz Advertisers had picked up the PSL three years rights from 2016-2019 and all three sports channels including Geo Super, PTV Sports and Ten Sports were used as carriers.

However, when Blitz Advertisers successfully bid for PSL’s next three years rights, PTV had prevailed over the media house to become the carrier of Pakistan Super League’s feed conditionally if Ten Sports was kept out. Ten Sports didn’t take their ouster well. More so, Ten Sports (SPNI) had reportedly misled PTV by proposing a conditional bit to acquire the PSL rights. Both were disqualified. Someone was again favoured.

PTV was skimmed by Ten Sports since the value for each series in the PCB Rights was kept such most of the cost was set for the Pakistani territory. Ten Sports later SPNI paid the amounts to PCB while invoiced PTV for their share. PCB ended up giving concessions of up to USD 4.95 Million to SPNI while PTV had to pay full amounts. PCB didn’t mind favouring an Indian company while the state broadcaster were fleeced. PTV despite having had an awful experience still shared the ICC Rights 2015-2019 with Ten Sports and in presence of the same man at PTV, they had even sublicensed the Asia Cup rights to them. PTV had played in the hands of Ten Sports initially Zee owned and later acquired by SPNI.

When PTV went back to SPNI and the PCB to give them concessions on Bangladesh’s tour to Pakistan in 2020 which wasn’t part of the original MRA signed, as told, PCB were dictated by Ten Sports because of Mr. Zahid Noorani’s friendship with their Chairman. PTV weren’t given any concession by either party.

PCB according to the sources had ben wronged. PCB and SPNI having mutually supported each other couldn’t justify anything. Bangladesh tour to Pakistan wasn’t part of the original MRA. They were required to release a fresh RFP or needed to take PTV on board. There are documentary evidences SPNI had initially refused to cover the BD tour to Pakistan since to them they were not obligated to do so.

SPNI as they traditionally exploit situations managed to get a concession of USD 2.25 Million. Interesting as reported there were no provisions in the original MRA for PCB to give concessions to SPNI.

In either case PCB had violated the contractual commitments. SPNI had their bag full while PTV were not given any cushion. Why PTV management has been taking dictates of SPNI and PCB kneeled down defies logic. Why cant they take up the matter is equally perplexing.

It is an open secret Salman Naseer PCB’s COO, the Chairman PCB and Zohaib Hussain are all friends with Mr. Zahid Noorani of Ten Sports. Zohaib works as a host at the Ten Sports and is their discovery. He was intelligently sent to PCB as an advisor on broadcast. He assembles RFPs for PCB and prepares the bid documents. There are reports he does it as advised by Mr. Zahid Noorani of the Ten Sports (SPNI). One wonders what will happen to the baseline pricing and confidentiality when PCB invites bids for the next rights. Zohaib’s case is an evidence of conflict of interest.

However, this left Ten Sports (SPNI) estranged. PCB insiders reveal Ten Sports (SPNI) using their influence had asked their senior management to get the airing of Pakistan cricket‘s bilateral series archives removed from PTV Sports screen. This had never happened before. PCB have only been favouring an Indian network and neglecting the state broadcaster. This can only happen in Pakistan.

Ten Sports (SPNI) as reported orchestrated media reports comprehending PTV’s black out during Pakistan’s tour to England 2020 which could create noise since they are purely an Indian channel. There were reports in the media regarding PTV having defaulted on payments and given the reason Ten Sports (SPNI) were not ready to sublicense the rights of the series to them. Insiders reports PTV had cleared major part of it running into Millions of USD. It is true, PTV had issues release of payments to an Indian company in accounts in India after September 2019 when Government of Pakistan imposed sanctions through a S.R.O. SPNI with trivial amounts left, to further pressurize and malign PTV added in the list payments due to Taj Entertainment Network.

As reported, SPNI has been dealing with PTV dogmatically and trying to keep them out of the main competition fearing with PCB and ICC rights for the next five years in the offing, Blitz Advertisers could partner the state broadcaster leaving them sidelined. Ten Sports has had history of such coercions.

In 2004, Ten Sports had tried milking Doordarshan before the India versus Pakistan series. Having the exclusive rights of cricket played in Pakistan as well in the West Indies for three years. They had acquired the rights for USD 50 Million. They expected heavy returns. They had demanded a staggering USD 24 Million from Doordarshan to provide them the signals of India’s tour to Pakistan.

Doordarshan had refused to be blackmailed paying the amount and had moved to high courts of Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. Eventually DD went to the Supreme Court. Supreme court eventually bailed out Doordarshan and the first two one-day Internationals were aired live. So typically, Tensports had backed out to offer off the court settlement.

It’s in the news SPNI are not eager to sublicense the Pakistan versus England series 2020 rights to PTV. It is also reported SPNI has been charging PTV exorbitantly for the away tours enjoying their hegemony. PTV for long has been blackmailed. Pitiable it is to be told during most of the world tournaments they have dominated Ten Sports on all fronts, from programming to earning more revenue from the Pakistani market and still they find themselves gullible, exploited by an Indian channel.

If PTV is blacked out during the Pakistan versus England series 2020 will reflect poorly on the state broadcaster and country’s government. If Doordarshan could take Ten Sports to the cleaners moving to court, one hopes PTV being the only terrestrial network does the same to avoid denying their country-wide audience. PTV will have to stand up for their rights as a state broadcaster and also to exploit their terrestrial presence.

One wonders there will be any change in PTV’s policies after their license fee increases from RS 35 to Rs 100? How Government of India backed Doordarshan against Ten Sports in 2004 is what one expects from the Imran Khan led Pakistani regime. How can a state broadcaster take dictation from an Indian channel? They have to make their presence felt. Two wrongs do not make a right.

By Our Correspondent

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