Control, cricket, and domain names… 

Internet domain names reveal a lot! More in fact than most people realize. That’s also true to a lesser degree with stock ticker symbols. There’s a reason why companies hire PR firms so that when people look at the company’s URL, they have a sneak peek into the company’s business and culture. Conversely, if you’ve chosen therapistfinder.com, chances are Scotland Yard would be your most frequent visitor instead of troubled teens or arthritic octogenarians, and if you’ve chosen childrenswear.co.uk, more parents are likely to be visiting for behavioral consultancy for their teens and toddlers than for their clothing.

Given that background, the BCCI’s choice of a domain name is perhaps quite anachronic. The fact that they’ve chosen not the ubiquitous.com as other boards have done, nor the notional .org chosen by organizations working for a larger than life cause, and not even the commercially viable .biz or even the aesthetically appealing .pro. but the profoundly limited .tv, reveals that the BCCI’s PR is either way ahead of its time or way behind, hence the anachronism. It’s as if they’re proclaiming that they either value TV rights more than the game, or they’re in direct competition with their team sponsor STAR sports. In Ian Chappel’s words, I won’t hang by my neck to know if both are true.

TV rights indeed are where the beef in international cricket is. Cricket after all, is a game popular only in the British empire’s colonial remnants. India’s huge population, its expatriates’ global presence, and most of all, the team’s winning global events in recent years is indeed a huge factor in providing the BCCI the leverage which they now wield quite often, look no further than Haroon Lorgat for an example! The recent abrogation of the Futures Tours Program (FTP) and the restructuring of the ICC are but manifestations of BCCI’s power. The fact that their favor is sometimes costing cricket boards (read: WICB) more than its apathy (read: PCB), is a damning, if not quite obvious, edict on the huge imbalance currently prevailing in world cricket.

BCCI can sometimes be mistaken for acting like a control freak parent, after all, the word ‘control’ comes before ‘cricket’ and ‘India’ in their legal name! They’re the lone, but the biggest and most decisive, detractor of DRS. They have their own panel of commentators. They’ve evicted photographers from grounds, not apologised for it, censured for hubris and boycotted by journalists, and got on with it. Still, cricket boards are falling over one another to get confirmation of a cricket series with the Indian team. Boards are ostensibly coaxed into voting in a certain way for the remote possibility of such series. All because of the huge sums of money that the boards get for playing India, and the BCCI is well and truly aware of their value.

A fundamental question need to be answered though, should TV rights be given this much weightage after all? As it stands, TV channels are in the business for the bottom line, so if they’re persisting with the constant, if sometimes gloating, supply of live cricket and other sporting action, while at the same time maintaining commentary payroll and coverage crews, then they must have a very good reason to pay USD $750 million for covering only 96 matches across 7 years (http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/story/559538.html).

As it is though, TV channels’ revenue comes from advertisements, which requires viewership, which, as strange as it may sound, isn’t guaranteed! In scenarios where subscription is personalized, as in Set-top-boxes, it’s easier to find individual household’s habits of viewership. But the large populace which makes the biggest chunk of the target audience gets their connections from cable operators, who serve hundreds if not thousands of households using a single connection. No viable solution, except putting usage meters checking digital cable signals is there to measure viewing habits (http://www.livemint.com/Consumer/lJgYqt8innH7cxMtS896YN/In-trial-run-BARC-to-install-meterstogauge-TVviewingdat.html) . Most rating systems in such scenarios are based on this logic, which, to say the least, has room for improvement. There’s a thinking that if empty stands are any indication, the home viewership is also not exactly flourishing. Competition is fierce, especially with soap operas airing in the same time slot most international cricket happens.

Needless to say, no one says international cricket should not be covered. Live action, highlights, experts analyses, pitch maps, super slo-mos, they’re all great assets and they all cost the vendors serious money. Which has to be redeemed somehow. It’s just that balance is a key to most problems in this world. Find that balance, and just may be, the BCCI will find itself a better domain name!

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