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Tennis fans slam broadcaster's Australian Open 'farce'

If you are a tennis fan in India, chances are that you did not watch World No 1 Rafael Nadal overcoming Japanese Kei Nishikori’s spirited challenge in the pre-quarter-finals of the Australian Open yesterday.

Indian tennis fans could not see Serena Williams’ Australian Open ouster
Indian tennis fans could not see Serena Williams’ Australian Open ouster

That’s because Star Sports, the biggest sports broadcaster on Indian television, chose to show the match on one of their HD channels, which is only available at an additional price to the viewer, while showing Rohan Bopanna and Katarina Srebotnik’s pre-quarter final win over Ashleigh Barty and John Peers on one of their standard definition channels (Star Sports 4).

Meanwhile, the other three standard definition channels at Star Sports’ disposal showed cricket programming like Believe 2013, Switch Hit (Star Sports 1) and Ranji Trophy semi-final matches (Star Sports 2 & Star Sports 3).

On Sunday too, tennis fans in India were left disappointed after being unable to watch Serena Williams’ shocking 6-4, 3-6, 3-6 loss to Ana Ivanovic as the match was broadcast only on a HD channel. Star Sports 4, Star Sports’ primary channel for sports other than cricket, ran with the Mumbai Marathon.

“Tennis just isn’t given enough importance. You have only two channels showing tennis whereas the remaining channels show cricket. Additionally one of these two channels is not subscribed by many (as it is an HD channel). So, what does an ardent fan do if he wants to watch seeded players in action?

“Next, the channel heads will decide on telecasting all final matches only on their HD channels. What a farce and money-making racket this is,” Deep Singh Shahid, an ardent Nadal fan, told MiD DAY yesterday.

Curiously, when World No 2 Novak Djokovic beat Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 last Friday, the match was broadcast on an HD channel, while Star Sports 4 beamed highlights of Maria Sharapova’s match.
This selection policy of Star Sports has forced some die-hard fans to subscribe to HD channels.

“I am a subscriber of Star Sports HD, but I can understand how others feel. I only got the subscription, so I could see the matches. All my friends have to come over to my place to watch matches. I wish Star would do something about this,” said Shahzad Dastoor, who roots for Djokovic and Roger Federer.

This is not the first time Star Sports has attracted the fans’ ire. The broadcaster had earlier angered football fans (as reported by MiD DAY on Dec 14, 2013) by sidelining English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A matches in favour of cricket shows like Perfect Pujara and Outstanding Ojha.

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