The Indian Premier League (IPL) ushered in a new wave of cricketainment offering followers of the game a completely new experience. Now, there's some good news in store for those who won't be able to catch the action on the tube or their handsets.
All India Radio (AIR) wants radio commentary rights of the tournament and has formally written to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) twice on this subject.
"We had written to the BCCI before the coronavirus outbreak but there has been no response. But we are optimistic about it. We have again written to them and are hopeful of a positive response," Shashi Shekhar Vempati, Prasar Bharati CEO, told Moneycontrol.
The role played by radio in catapulting the popularity of cricket in the country can never be understated and although the medium may have lost a bit of its charm over the years, the reach and strength of the coverage of All India Radio is unparalleled.
Also Read | IPL 2020 advertising revenue: Star India looks to duck COVID-19 blues
Last year, BCCI and AIR had entered into an agreement under which the latter would have live audio commentary rights for all the international and domestic matches played in the country for a period of two years.
Also, those viewers who don't have the luxury of satellite television or high-end data powered smartphones, the prospect of watching the matches on Doordarshan can be a godsend.
In 2018, select matches of IPL were beamed on Doordarshan on a delayed basis.
So, will there be an encore this year?
Vempati, however, said there has been no discussion on that front.
"At this point in time, nothing is on the table so it won't be right for me to comment. There has been no discussion that front. We will, however, be happy to telecast it if that opportunity arises," he said.
Also Read | IPL 2020: Franchises face 'Corona discount' googly
It must be noted that under the Sports Broadcasting Signals Act, 2007, broadcasters have to share the feed of only sporting events of national importance with Doordarshan. But for IPL, Star India, the rights holder, is under no compulsion to share the rights with the public broadcaster.
The IPL this year will be played in UAE sans spectators and viewership figures are expected to beat previous records.
Although the matches will be played outside India, the craze for live sports action and the chance to see top Indian cricketers in action after a long time has ensured that viewer interest is at an all-time high.
Vempati, who took charge as Prasar Bharati CEO in 2017, has successfully managed to tap the massive archival strength of both Doordarshan and All India Radio.
Vempati, an IIT-Bombay alumnus, worked with Infosys for 16 years and also had a stint as the CEO of Niti Digital. Vempati is the first non-Indian Administrative Service officer to head the public broadcaster.
DD Retro was launched earlier this year during the lockdown and the public broadcaster's move was greeted with great enthusiasm on social media platforms. However, FM Gold, which earlier used to play old songs, is now dedicated to news and current affairs.
Is AIR planning anything specific to cater to those listeners?
"We have a large number of services in radio. There has been a focused effort in the last few months to bring out more content from the archives. AIR every night nowadays plays old plays from the archives. So, we have used that strategy for radio also," he said.
Vempati also emphasised that broadcasters have realised that it is imperative for them to keep acquisition costs to a minimum and they need to have a collective approach.
"Commercial sports rights is out of the reach of national broadcasters. We continue to broadcast domestic sports events which are not considered lucrative by private sports channels. On the international sports rights properties front, our focus is through multi-lateral bodies. For example, we have the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, where all the public broadcasters are collectively trying to acquire sports rights. Otherwise, most sports properties will be out of reach of public broadcasters," he said.Follow our coverage of the coronavirus crisis here