Was PCB’s $200m rights deal with PTV mere bluff?

Published April 15, 2021
This file photo shows the agreement being signed between the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan Television. — DawnNewsTV/File
This file photo shows the agreement being signed between the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan Television. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: It was in September 2020 when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had signed a ‘record’ tripartite three-year TV rights deal with the Pakistan Television and I-media — a cable distribution company — at the Prime Minister House in the presence of PM Imran Khan.

Ehsan Mani, the incumbent PCB chairman, and CEO Wasim Khan hailed the deal as a ground-breaking one in Pakistan history and boasted about how it would change the face of marketing and revenue earning in the country.

However, all those tall claims made by the PCB seems to be falling flat now as investigations made over the past few weeks by Dawn prove that the ‘record’ deal was nothing but an eyewash and not even one tenth of the revenue promised could be guaranteed from any of the resources named in the deal.

According to details gathered, the basic structure of the deal was that PCB would provide its domestic and bilateral international content to PTV on a revenue share basis and the sales and collections functions would be handled by PTV. The amounts collected would be deposited into a joint escrow account with National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) for further release to the parties based on a pre-agreed sharing formula. This deal didn’t include the Televisions and other Broadcast rights of PSL.

As an adjunct to this PTV-PCB agreement, PCB also signed a deal with I-media to collect cable revenues for the content being shown on PTV Sports which basically means that the consumer would have to pay PCB to watch Pakistan cricket content.

I-media, apparently, provided a monthly minimum guarantee secured through post-dated cheques.

Sources in the PTV and the PCB, speaking to Dawn on condition of anonymity, however termed the deal as ‘absurd’ and said that even selling of all available slots and maximum airtime for the next 10 to 15 years will not raise the massive amount of US$200million let alone in the three-year period quoted by Mani and Wasim.

They further said that as it is, the PCB is struggling to rope in leading sponsors and broadcasters for Pakistan cricket, so there is no way a huge amount of US$200m could be raised in three years by any stretch of imagination.

A couple of officials termed the deal as an attempt to hoodwink Imran Khan government who have been tightening screws on the PCB top brass to revamp the revenue earning structure and to provide maximum financial boost to national television network — the PTV.

It must be mentioned here that Dawn had sent some pertinent questions to the PCB for its comments on the issue and regarding the debilitating state of tv revenues vis-à-vis Pakistan cricket four days ago. However, no answers were received from the Board despite till Tuesday evening while repeated calls to PCB spokesperson also went in vain.

The I-media representatives also were unavailable for any comments despite repeated attempts by Dawn to contact them. However, sources in the I-media also termed the deal as ‘ridiculous’ and confirmed that the preposterous amount of USD200m mentioned by Mani could not be raised in 10 years or more even if maximum airtime is sold.

Dawn had asked the PCB the following questions:

— Why PCB had entered into a revenue share agreement with PTV and I-media without an open tender and without putting together a realistic feasibility on the matter.

— If I-media has defaulted on its payments to PCB, then why hasn’t PCB en-cashed the post-dated cheques to balance out things?’

— Can a public broadcaster directly or indirectly charge cable fees to consumers for its channel when it is already being supported by taxpayer monies.

— What will happen if the $200 million amount is not collected over the next 3 years and who will be penalised for the failed deal?

Moreover, sources claimed that no such public broadcaster model exists anywhere in the world where the broadcaster can directly or indirectly charge cable fees to consumers for its channel when it is already being supported by taxpayer monies.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021

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