March 05, 2023
ISLAMABAD—There is chaos at the Pakistan Television Corporation Limited. Recently, the entire archives of the PTVC, including superhit dramas, those part of the folklore, music, news, current affairs, and sports, have been (digital) undersold to a friend of the current managing director and who is allegedly supported by an ex-SAPM in the PTI government, who was instrumental in devising campaigns against the PML (N) is now feasting because of his financial association with the owner of Z2C/Blitz Advertiser.
Horrendously, the contract awarded to Z2C by the PTVC is for five years. In open daylight, PTVC has been siphoned. Without the approval of the PTVC board of directors and in absolute violation of the rules, such is the incumbent MD PTVC’s tenacity and an overbearing presence at the Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoIB).
To some, he was anticipating being promoted as federal secretary, a wish which seems unfulfilled since the incumbent federal secretary in charge has recently been promoted to Grade 22. Now the dynamics at the MoIB may well change, though anticipatory, it is believed Mrs. Shahera Shahid, the secretary in charge, MoIB will take firm steps to cleanse PTVC, which has reportedly become a center of nepotism, under-the-table-deals, and inefficiency.
An expression of interest (EOI) was hastily prepared and orchestrated to facilitate Z2C/Blitz Advertises. It is illegal. The value of the PTVC archives since 1964 should range between Rs 4 to Rs 5 billion if estimated on contemporary parity. Exploiting digital rights could easily attract between Rs1.0 to Rs 1.5 billion yearly, and installing one’s indigenous OTT is not a big ask in present corporate spaces. How could the incumbent MD PTVC, also an additional secretary MoIB justify a vendor/third party keeping a revenue share of 90% with PTVC having the intellectual property rights of the content? It will need some explaining, and two, many heads should roll.
The value of digital content can first be assessed from the fact that PTVC Sports in 2021 acquired three-year ICC 2020-2023 digital rights for USD 3.6 million. In 2021, they sublet the ICC World Cup 2021 digital rights to Daraz.com for USD 1.3 million. Again the ICC World 2022 was sublicensed to the same vendor for USD 2 million, cumulatively earning PTVC USD 3.3 million with one tournament rights still to be sublet in October 2023 (ICC World Cup 2023), which is likely to fetch PTVC up between USD 2.5 million to USD 3 million. PTVC will likely end up with a return of USD 5.8 million, and minus the cost, a profit of up to USD 2.2 million is ensured.
Whereas the managing director has entered into a contract with Z2C/Blitz Advertisers for five years with a Rs 100 million MG annually, 10% share of the PTVC, and 90% share of Z2c from all revenue (advertisements). For the second year, PTVC will get 15% and Z2c 85%, and from the third year to the fifth year, PTVC will get 20% and Z2c 80%. Two years of exploitation of digital rights for two tournaments fetched PTVC up to Rs 740.10 million (both estimated on the 1Rs to 1 USD rate at the time of contracts). And here, the entire digital archive of the PTVC since 1964 has been presented on a platter to Z2c for Rs 500 million for five years (minimum guarantee) and out of the advertisement revenue despite being the owners of the rights to a private party.
One must also mention that the management doesn’t have any clue about broadcasting. It has no idea about sports’ digital rights, which hold the maximum value even if acquired at a time and can’t be monetized after one year. However, these could be broadcast as fillers (not digital). Since 1968, most cricket can’t be posted on OTT and monetized because the Pakistan Cricket Board holds intellectual property rights (IP). This is still being done. The management has stooped to a level of getting posted a Group 6 employee from Lahore to head PTV Sports. He is a producer of current affairs who has worked in sports and specializes in outdoor productions. This chosen ‘producer’ has constantly been violating all PTVC rules by working privately with the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Transmedia Group without prior permission or exemption, a case of termination from the job. The desecrations have spread over the last few years. His qualification to head PTV Sports is because of the backing of the group now incumbent in seats of power and the expectation that he’ll provide the entire sports archive for digital use to Z2c, which his predecessor wasn’t able to do.
MD PTVC has been going out of the way for Z2c/Blitz Advertisers backed by one of the strongest broadcast networks and his friend’s media house. Recently, PTVC acquired the rights of International League T 20, 2023, and Bangladesh Premier League 2023 from Z2C/Blitz Advertisers. Again, a coincidence that the advice coming from MD PTVC’s office to pick up rights from his friend’s company. The content's value for Pakistan's territory ranged between Rs 30 to Rs 35 million. Reportedly, the MD PTVC had asked the Department of Sports Syndication and Central Sales Office (CSO) to acquire it for USD 1.2 Million. It was blatant and astronomical; therefore, the final settlement was to make the acquisition and air the content on PTV Sports at Rs 70 million, the money which PTVC decided to get off-set from their dues by Z2c/Blitz Advertisers, and to boast that the acquisitions have been made without burdening PTVC’s exchequer, the reality is terse, it was being off-set from their money which was to be given to them by the media house. And reportedly, the content incurred losses on PTVC.
Furthermore, to facilitate Z2c, an attempt was made to coerce Daraz.com to let run a dirty feed of the digital content of PSL 8 on Z2c OTT (supposedly setting it up for the PTVC). Once denied, PTVC is now contemplating getting into litigation against Daraz.com, without realizing that it is the biggest market player in digital rights in Pakistan and PTVC’s main client acquiring ICC rights digital content at high costs. Again, the common player likely to be benefited was Z2c’Blitz Advertisers, and the deal couldn’t materialize because Daraz.com refused to be dictated.
The incumbent MD PTVC, as part of the government’s narrative and to support the Geo Group (IMG) violating all Sind and Lahore High Court orders, permitted Geo Super (a channel leased by Z2c/Blitz Advertisers) on monthly remuneration to air all his content to broadcast PSL 8 (dirty feed of PTV Sports). It went on air on Geo Super on February 13th, day one of PSL 8, and was struck off the next day when ARY Communications got it stayed at the SHC. It was again an insult to PTVC, legitimate rights holders of PSL 8, and the sharing of their dirty feed not adding to their financial returns (the inventory already sold), only inflicting their audience and eyeballs by sharing viewership with Geo Super had still tried benefiting the Geo Group and Z2c. Had the PSL 8 aired on Geo Super would have severely damaged PTVC Sports viewership and ratings without providing any strength to the finances or their exchequer.
It should be mentioned here that the track record of Z2c/ Blitz Advertisers can be ascertained from the following:
They couldn’t bid for the PSL VII and VIII Rights, having defaulted with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Blitz Advertisers defaulted on PCB’s payments being the rights holders of the PSL for the first six years, and were not allowed bidding. Blitz Advertisers defaulted on PCB, and the arbitrator awarded PKR 634,670,170.21 in favor of the Pakistan Cricket Board plus interest to date of award up to USD 837,890 as damages and GBP 42,462.26 as costs of the proceedings.
The conspiracy against PTV Sports was hatched after the arrival of the incumbent PDM government when the federal minister for information & broadcasting reportedly had an agenda to facilitate Geo Group, the favorite of PML (N), and also to forcefully create an anti-ARY narrative. PTVC had financially extremely viable contracts in place in lieu of the ICC rights 2020-2023 and PSL VII & VIII, with the largest and a multinational media house GroupM and their back-ended partners being ARY Communications which earned PTVC a revenue of Rs 4.5 billion in 2021-2022 out of PTVC Sports had contributed a whooping Rs 2.96 billion, both PTVC records since 1964. Such was the frustration and biased view, despite the Lahore High Court having termed PTVC/GroupM/ARY Communications deal as ‘bona fide’ and in the public interest and GEO/Blitz Communications petitions as ‘mala fide and in business interest’ (Petitions WP 1524/2022 & WP 100/2022).
The federal minister initiated an inquiry by formulating a fact-finding committee which was illegal sitting in the face of the LHC decision. Two, it was headed by federal secretary in charge of information & broadcasting, Mrs. Shahera Shahid who had headed the PTVC BOD as its chairperson and had approved the PTVC/GroupM/ARY Communications deal. On the committee was Syed Mubasher Tauqir, the then additional secretary of the MoIB and PTVC BOD member who had also approved the deal. It was a conflict of interest, and they had become judges of their own cause.
PTVC changed its stance in the Lahore High Court, leaving the organization embarrassed by going back on its early view and tried helping out Blitz Advertisers and IMG (Geo Group), and such has been the travesty no ICP has been placed for hearing thus far, even PTVC filed a 12/2 appeal conceding that they had been doing all the wrong things before the incumbent government took over, another embarrassing stance further alienating the organization. All their petitions and appeals had been stayed and the previous contract couldn’t be revoked.
Interestingly, the major revenue which PTVC (PTV Sports) is earning until today is because of the previous ICC Rights 2020-2023, PSL 7 & PSL 8, and PCB 2020-2023 contracts, all finalized by an MD PTVC from the corporate sector (who was asked to resign when PDM government took over in April 2022) and a civil award-winning senior most director of the PTVC who was director sports & syndication. Their team, before the change of government, had seen PTVC Sports becoming a phenomenal success. Significantly, the ex-director sports & syndication, despite an outstanding record of service and uncontested credentials, the one who had been instrumental in attracting viewers back to PTVC through PTV Sports besides inviting top ex-foreign legends and ensuring PTV Sports had the strongest content inventory in 2021-22 was removed unlawfully, politically victimized because he didn’t agree to incumbent management’s plan of pleasing and benefiting Z2c/Blitz Advertisers and GEO Group. To some, he wouldn’t have allowed the digital archives being undersold to Z2c. Next, as reported, Z2c’s designs are to hire PTV Sports as they had done in case of Geo Super on a trivial monthly remuneration and earn billions which PTV Sports makes, and for this a EOI has already been released.
After the new government came in April 2022 and sacked the permanent and most successful director sports & syndication replacing him with a pedestrian Group 8 officer who, because of his incompetence and inexperience missed the following rights:
Agonizing it is that PTVC made billions from broadcasting ICC World T 20, 2022, and PSL 8, and the current PTVC management has gone to court to get the contracts cancelled, despite huge revenues, their interest is to serve the select few, Z2c/Blitz Advertisers, and the Geo Group.
Such was the antipathy that the federal minister for information & broadcasting, contrary to the facts, to strengthen her narrative had spoken ill of the contracts in place (though both turned out to be exceptionally viable and financially rewarding for PTVC), and provided incorrect data and untrue statements during a couple of press conferences. Even FIFA 2022 rights were missed by PTVC, mainly because of the incompetence and inability of the team chosen to run PTVC and PTV Sports by the PDM government. The minister narrated an ‘enticing’ concocted story during her press conference.
To end, the capable and the deserving people have been taken out of the system, and the ex-director sports & syndication has been made an OSD, primarily because of political victimization and because he doesn’t fit in the system. At the latest, PTVC and MoIB initiated a frivolous inquiry on their failure to acquire FIFA 2022 broadcast & digital rights to implicate the ex-director sports & syndication instead of the plans to terminate his services without cause. Interestingly, it was the incumbent MD PTVC and his incompetent team at the Department of Sports missing out on the rights. Only to use it as an opportunity to remove the ex-director sports & syndication, now the senior most permanent director at the PTVC, all have corroborated to create a reason, which is as irrelevant as the USA winning the cricket world cup.
Further, a Group 8 employee with no previous executive experience has been made head of sports syndication. Until recently, he also held the charge of directorate of sports but to have someone complying blindly without asking relevant questions, a Group 6 employee has been given PTVC Sports 24/7 specialized channel. The main reason behind his posting to a position much higher than his grade, as conveyed, is to ensure the entire sports archive is transferred to Z2C/Blitz Advertisers to run the OTT.
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