This is bizarre. A leading cricketer signing a contract to "give his views and interviews exclusively to NDTV for a period of one year"!
Agencyfaqs reports: Announcing the contract, Prannoy Roy, chairman, NDTV, said, "We hope to bring quality content and attract the cricket viewers of the country by featuring Dhoni’s exclusive views on the sport...."
Roy adds, "The deal with Dhoni does not restrict him from presenting his views on other media."
Now I have heard of cricketers endorsing colas, and shirts and energy drinks. And of course we can never be sure that these fellows actually use or drink any of these products. All that the guy handing over a few crores asks is that the star is never spotted using other brands in public.
But this NDTV-Dhoni tie up is a first. And it remains to be seen how it actually works. Whether it will be a 'symbiotic relationship', as Dr Roy calls it. Or an incestuous one.
Dhoni himself clarified that he would be present at BCCI interviews and it's not like he won't speak to other media at all. But surely he will be less enthusiastic about speaking to the 'competition'.
Jeet Banerjee, CEO, GamePlan Sports, clarifies, "The plan that NDTV has laid out for Dhoni, the way they will use his views, was very balanced and substantial. That is why we agreed to the contract. " However, NDTV refused to reveal the kind of shows it will air with Dhoni.
Since Dhoni makes as much news every time he changes the colour of his hair, as when he's out on field, the possibilities are limitless.
But seriously, the 'war for news' has hotted up to an extent where I think such 'initiatives' have become inevitable. The bigger question is - does it make sense for a reigning star to align himself with one or the other media house in an non-exclusively exclusive manner? Whatever that means?!!
Well, here's the upside. Instead of giving soundbytes to a number of reporters to after every match, Dhoni can now give one, more substantial soundbyte to a single channel. What's more - he's getting paid for it. Uske upar yeh, the channel will actively promote and showcase Dhoni on other shows.
Now if Dhoni remains as big a performer on field as he is today, other channels will not be able to 'ignore' him. They will have to grudgingly accept whatever chhota-mota interview he gives them.
However, the moment his performance slips, there is nothing to stop the other channels from baying for his blood. And the support of an NDTV alone at such a time would appear hollow and self-serving.
Given that Dhoni seems unstoppable at the moment, it's a calculated risk taken by NDTV. Would not be surprised if rival channels are in talks with the likes of Yuvraj Singh or Irfan Pathan...
The line between 'news' and entertainment is already blurred. With 'tie-ups' like this, it may soon be completely invisible.