The government's 2006 directive making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share the feed of sports events of "national importance" with state-owned Doordarshan seems to have backfired.
Designed to give national broadcaster Prasar Bharti the feed of major cricket tournaments for free, the order has instead burnt a hole in its pocket.
Prasar Bharti's revenue fell almost 10 per cent in 2006-07, before recovering 7 per cent in 2007-08. And the culprit was Doordarshan. While the revenue of All India Radio (AIR) climbed steadily, Doordarshan's earning plunged 14.25 per cent in 2006-07, before improving in 2007-08.
Doordarshan and Prasar Bharti's revenues are way below the high they had touched in 2005-06.
Officials said before the feed-sharing order came into effect, Doordarshan used to take the feed without paying any fee and sell ad spots. It earned almost 25 per cent of its Rs 954.36 crore revenue in 2005-06 by telecasting cricket matches. In the last two years, this contribution has fallen to less than 6 per cent.
During this time, Set Max raised over Rs 300 crore from advertisers during the IPL matches, while other sports channels like ESPN, STAR Sports and Neo Cricket raised another Rs 200-250 crore as Prasar Bharati could not telecast both Twenty20 matches (IPL) and the test match series (India-Australia and India-South Africa) on Doordarshan.
On a shared transmission, Doordarshan can earn only 25 per cent of the total advertising revenue. The rest goes to the holder of the telecast rights.
Prasar Bharati insiders say the revenue dip in case of Doordarshan is mainly because of its capacity to generate advertising revenue on cricket matches independently.
"Three years ago, we earned Rs 220-250 crore from spots on live cricket matches. Compare this with the matches played between March 2007 and May 2008 from which Doordarshan earned only about Rs 45 crore," said a source in Prasar Bharati.
Sources said Doordarshan also missed the IPL Twenty20 matches that were aired on SetMax. Also, the Test series between India and Australia, and later between India and South Africa were not shown on Doordarshan.
"The fact that for 2007-08, the revenue of Doordarshan has gone up compared with the previous fiscal shows that we are not dependent on cricket alone. Doordarshan earns from its DTH platform, its channels and through the sale of special DVDs and CDs," said a senior Doordarshan official.
This change is also reflected in AIR's revenues, which have been consistently on the rise on the back of FM radio channels and sponsored shows. Since 2005-06, AIR's revenues have gone up by 10 per cent.
Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body supported by grants and loans from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Overall, Prasar Bharati has outstanding loans and grants of Rs 5,500 crore that have to be repaid to the government.
However, its revenues are ploughed back and only a small part goes for the repayment of loans and grants.