June 16, 2023
ISLAMABAD-The state-owned Pakistan Television Corporation Limited was incurring heavy losses and had lost all its viewership by 2011. During the Pakistan Peoples' Party regime, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, the president of the country, directed the Federal Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to launch a specialized 24/7 sports channel.
From 2012, PTV Sports became one of the most robust revenue generators for the PTVC and attracted back the lost viewership. Their sports channel became a brand. By May 2022, PTV Sports had become Pakistan's most-watched sports channel. Not only that, PTV Sports had the most substantial inventory, and its competitors, TenSports or Geo Super, and later A Sports, couldn't match its ratings, high consumer demand, content, and return on investment. Revenue earned by PTV Sports from 2012 until May 2022 exceeds Rs 14.5 billion, and to add to it, another Rs 4.1 billion was picked in 2022-2023. If such exorbitant amounts have been earned in the last one year until now, how PTV could be on the road to destruction is a question the sensible may well ask. It is being destroyed and now stands on the fringes, at the brink of losing everything.
The incompetent picks of the federal minister for information & broadcasting had ruined PTV. First and foremost was the sacking of the ex-director of sports of the PTV. Although he was the senior most on the list, he was made an officer on special duty (OSD) purely based on political victimization and at the behest of one of the largest private networks and a media house. He was instrumental in seeing the evolution of PTV Sports, transforming it into the top specialized channel besides attracting unprecedented revenue, bringing over ex-world stars and legends, and adding top world events to the inventory.
Furthermore, the minister handpicked a managing director, who now is not only the MD PTV but its chairman, chairman of the board of directors, and secretary in charge of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, where he replaced a Grade 22 most deserving female officer of the information group. It made things worse. Whether competent or incompetent, he has no clue of heading a broadcaster and there are a handful of pieces of evidence regarding nepotism.
To add to it, controversially and after cutting a non-transparent deal to his friend he had given a contract (a company that had defaulted on payments with the PCB) incurring a billion rupee loss in terms of underselling prized content while setting up PTVFlix, the digital platform.
Indeed, once the government completes its tenure and runs out of power, this will be investigated by all the agencies, such is the magnitude of infliction caused to the state broadcaster. The incumbent MD PTV, completely a layman in broadcasting, brought in mediocre and below-average officers to run PTV Sports. It all started with PTV missing out on the FIFA World Cup 2022 Rights. And it so happened, to further malign the ex-director sports of PTV, out of vindictiveness, a superfluous inquiry was initiated against him, and he was termed guilty of failing to acquire the FIFA 2022 World Cup rights.
Interestingly, he had been removed on May 7, 2022, while his successor and the MD PTV had time until May 28 to broker a deal to syndicate exclusive rights and another six months to sub-license the event. Since ARY Network had picked up the exclusive rights from Viacom18 and the government didn't want to deal directly with them, also having gone to the court challenging the business agreement including the ICC 2020-2023 rights unsuccessfully were eventually blacked out.
After May 7, 2022, PTV Sports and the PTV management mucked everything up. They failed to pick the following:
FIFA World Cup 2022 rights
Pakistan versus Netherlands cricket series 2022
Asia Cup hockey rights
French Open Tennis 2022
Picked Wimbledon 2022 at double the price from the previous year
Missed acquiring Commonwealth Games based on exclusivity and sufficed with shared rights.
Acquired Pakistan versus Sri Lanka Series 2022 rights paying at least 25% more per unit.
Made a 3-year English Premier League deal with Star Middle East, and eventually, the content was removed from PTV Sports inventory because of default.
PTV hadn't paid Star Middle East for the Wimbledon 2022 rights.
PTV negotiated, requesting leniency in releasing the remaining ICC rights 2020-2023 payments because of bad financial management. Star Middle East agreed to allow PTV to pay the rest of the USD 7.5 million piecemeal. PTV was required to pay an installment of USD 100,000 according to a schedule, and they defaulted.
PTV paid USD 100,000 for the ICC World Cup 2023 qualifiers, and still, because of having defaulted, owing USD 1.6 million to Star Middle East, they are unlikely to get the feed unless they clear the outstanding sum inside a week.
PTV still needs to clear the money due to the Pakistan Cricket Board in lieu of the acquisitions they made between 2020-2023. There is still a massive outstanding sum to be paid to the PCB.
According to an insider, the parent broadcaster has shown discontent with PTV not acquiring and airing the recently concluded final of the World Test Championship at The Oval in England. Also, Star Middle East has been miffed at the attitude of PTV's Sports Syndication head for ignoring their calls, mis-committing, and making false promises of releasing the payments, which now have piled up to USD 1.6 million. PTV is liable to pay another USD 6.5 million before the ICC World Cup 2023 in October. Star has stopped the English Premier League feed. They have decided to syndicate the Wimbledon 2023 rights to A Sports (ARY Network), and if it happens, this will be the first time since 1975 that PTV wouldn't be showing tennis' most relished and famous grand slam. With EPL taken off PTV Sports and Wimbledon 2023 rights going to A Sports, will the federal minister for information & broadcasting hold a press conference as she did when PTV failed to pick up the FIFA 2023 rights? That day her press conference was based on complete disinformation and was contrary to the facts. It seemed, she was only trying to build up a narrative against the PTI regime and ARY. It was all politics.
According to the insiders and reliable sources, Star Middle East has decided first to withhold the ICC World Cup 2023 qualifiers' rights and consequently suspend the parent contract if the due payment is not released in a week's time. PTV may end up in a tight spot, not being able to air the ICC World Cup 2023. Star Middle East is also not eager to make a deal with PTV to sublicense the Cricket Australia rights. It is relevant to state that when the PDM government took over and made undesired and unwarranted changes at the PTV, PTV Sports had the strongest inventory in the country, having acquired the exclusive PCB 2020-2023 rights on revenue share and not paying anything, the ICC Rights 2020-2023, Asia Cup Rights 2014-2022, four-year Cricket South Africa rights, English Premier Rights, World Snooker Tour, AEW Wrestling and others. Now, they are on the verge of losing it all.
PTV now boasts having earned up to Rs 4.1 billion through major sports events (ICC World T 20, 2022, Asia Cup 2022, the bilateral home series (PCB Rights) though all this content (rights) were picked by the ex-director sports before his removal. The incumbents have only been a recipe for disaster. And such is the current management that despite earning huge revenues, they still owe large sums to the PCB and parent broadcasters, indicating their priorities are wrong and they have taken international networks for granted. It's an absolute tale of destruction.
The Nation, September 4, 2018
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