In an order passed by the Delhi High Court yesterday, telecom operators and mobile value added service (MVAS) providers have been prohibited from using live cricket match updates for commercial gains. STAR India, which owns exclusive media rights, including digital rights, of BCCI (Board of Cricket Control in India) organised cricket matches, had moved court in September against the live updates (ball by ball) provided by several mobile entities without procuring licences from STAR.
The HC has asked telecom operators and MVAS providers to either disseminate score updates with a lag of 15-minutes or pay a fair share of revenue generated through broadcast of live and contemporaneous scores to STAR India by procuring a license. This is a vindication of STAR India's stand that match information and facts generated from a sporting event is a proprietary right which accrues to the event organiser in the digital space.
"It would be just and reasonable for the defendants to either obtain a license and gain equal rights to their subscribers, or make them wait for some time, in order to not prejudice the right of the plaintiff (STAR India) to earn revenue from the match information," the court said in its order.
"Those who do not obtain a license from the plaintiff, may not disseminate the score update or match alert before 15 minutes from the moment such score update or match alert is telecasted or broadcasted by the plaintiff (STAR India)," the order added.
Shankar informs that though the mobile and internet rights were very costly, the broadcaster wanted to ensure that the consumer gets a quality experience of the game. However, before the right-holder (STAR India) could monetise it, various people without skills and with shorter goals used this as a quick-buck business model.
He adds, "We pay close to Rs 50 lakh per match to BCCI for online and mobile rights, apart from the television broadcast fee. From now on, those willing to offer minute by minute commentary of any live match (under BCCI) will have to procure the rights from us, though we haven't yet sealed a deal with anyone."
STAR India plans to first break even with the costs incurred in gaining the rights and then, plan on earning revenue. Shankar adds that digital has a huge scope since starsports.com attracts 6 million visitors with an average time spent per viewer being close to 45 minutes.
It is pertinent to note that though the broadcaster has moved to court for the three players, CricBuzz, OnMobile and Idea Cellular, there are many other players who exploit the match updates.