"It’s too soon for us to figure out whether we want to bid for BCCI or not. If we didn’t win the IPL rights then we had no choice. Now that we have it, the desperation is not so strong. Contrary to what everybody thinks and says, for us the IPL rights were not very expensive. For our internal benchmark, we compare it with the price we were paying for the BCCI rights, which is 43 crore. You are paying 43 crores for a Test and that too not for select Tests against Australia and England. And you have to pay 10 crores more and get an IPL right. It’s a no-brainer," Uday Shankar told the Indian Express.
With no IPL rights in the past 10 years, Uday Shankar was pretty clear on getting the right for the coveted tournament first, and then look for BCCI rights, if possible.
"We had no IPL for 10 years. Till five years ago, we had a joint venture with ESPN but Star India didn’t have a direct presence in sports. We built a sports franchise on the back of ICC and the BCCI rights and a few other bilateral rights. A few years ago, when the digital rights for IPL came up, we made a bid because we were developing Hotstar. It was clear to us that we wanted that Hotstar association to continue. Beyond that the only thing that made sense was to get it for TV. One big concern that we had at the time of bidding was if we’ll be able to renew our BCCI rights. In the event they ended up becoming unaffordable, it made sense for us only if we had TV as well as digital for IPL. That way we get certain insurance."
Asked whether in his pursuit of monopolising Indian cricket, wouldn’t he like to have BCCI rights in kitty too just to kill the competition, Shankar said, "We are in the business of making money. I’m not an owner. I work for a shareholders’ board, investors, everybody. I have to deliver returns on investment. There is only so much one guy can afford. Say someone has IPL, BCCI and ICC, there’s still plenty of cricket outside of those. It’s not your job to kill Test cricket or keep it alive.
After the advent of T20 cricket, the popularity of test cricket has been diminishing. To this Shankar said, "I don’t think Test cricket needs to be shut down. Staple has to be shorter format, and Test has to be fine-dining experience for special occasions. ICC have ODIs and T20, and they do well. The whole stature changes when there is an ICC tournament. Do we want to save cricket or no? You think if Kerry Packer didn’t do what he did, what would have happened to cricket. Do you need 13 Test matches in a year – 65 days! How many holidays you get? 20 days? Is that enough to watch all the Tests?"
The Mauka-Mauka campaign has always been one of the most popular campaigns by the group, and Shankar revealed the idea behind creating such a campaign.
"I thought it created a lot of positive rivalry between the two countries. There were multiple variants of Mauka-Mauka that spawned in India and Pakistan. It was a tongue-in-cheek thing. The fact that Pakistan had not beaten India in a World Cup game and the fact that Pakistani fans wanted their team to beat India. Instead of turning it into India-Pakistan war, we turned it into a spoofy take on the whole thing. People get involved in sport because it arouses passion for their team. If you do not work around that passion, then what are you going to talk about?"
With tournaments like KPL and TNPL being a regular feature on Star Sports, Shankar said, "You think we should do a national referendum before we schedule?! Do you know how many people watch US Open in this country? You are so wrong… There are multiple considerations when we slot something. We believe cricket has been great there is a case for it to go local in an attractive format. So when people came up with TNPL, we said yes. Even before TNPL we had supported university cricket. Even if people like a cricket tournament in one state, that is far more important in our priority than a niche or elite sport like US Open which is watched by a few people around the country. Sometimes, we get carried away by our echo chamber. When I took over EspnStarSports, there was a lot of golf. A lot. I dropped all of it. One of our biggest advertisers was really upset with me because of that. He said, ‘you guys are dumbing down sport’ and I said, “It’s easier for me to personally deliver DVD’s of golf matches to people… there are so few of them!”
First Published: September 17, 2017, 5:33 PM IST