Pakistani sports channels and death by advertising

Published: April 1, 2014
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I understand the need for TV channels to show ads to finance their transmissions and that companies want the best possible slot for their advertisements (i.e. when most people are glued to their screens) but is it fair on the people watching?

As I write this, Umar Gul has just bowled out a Bangladeshi batsman. Gul screams in celebration, begins to jump with his fists in the air and then there’s Rameez Raja with a cup of tea in his hand. Wait… what? That can’t be right.

Sadly, it is.

Few things get under my skin as much as excessive advertising during cricket matches.

Whether we’re being convinced that a slab of not-so-expensive chocolate will suffice as a midnight anniversary present (take it from me, it doesn’t) or that the amount of egg in a biscuit is reason for six women to put on shiny clothes and dance, glimpses of our beloved cricket team are supplemented by these pieces of… um… art.

There’s been a steady upward trend in recent years where as many as six to seven advertisements are being shown on TV in between overs. Actually, they’re shown as soon as the last ball of the over is bowled.

And when a wicket is taken.

And when they can’t find the ball that Shahid Afridi just hit for a six.

And when a poor Bengali man is holding his knee in agony.

And – this just happened – when Saeed Ajmal takes a brilliant catch.

I would have loved to see him celebrating but no. Thou shalt not celebrate. Instead, thou shalt discover what thou shalt eat at 7pm or risk being screamed at by thy maiden. Hint: It’s a biscuit. I’ll buy the damn biscuits, just let me watch him celebrate in peace please!

Oh and did I mention the beautiful, artfully made, aesthetically pleasing, absolutely divine logos that keep popping up during the match?

These are usually facilitated with an, absolutely necessary, little ad-belt at the bottom of the screen, as there is one right now while Kamran Akmal yells out in anticipation of another wicket.

http://vimeo.com/50384852

“24 hours free” (Like we just told you a minute ago, at the end of the last over but in case you’ve forgotten, we’ll just tell you again. Also, we don’t really mean 24 hours. We put an asterisk. Somewhere.)

It’s gotten out of hand.

I understand the need for TV channels to show advertisements to finance their transmissions and that companies want the best possible slot for their advertisements (that being when most people are glued to their screens) but is it fair on the people watching?

Is it really necessary for a sports channel to cut off wicket, century and match winning celebrations (the essence of the sports) to show Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis playing with bottles of carbonated beverages? (We also discover elsewhere that Wasim bhai loves socialising on his phone. What a man.)

Oh and here’s tea-bearing Rameez bhai again, cutting off commentating Rameez bhai midsentence.

This problem seems to be exclusive to Pakistani TV channels. Indian sports channels also show advertisements but always at the end of an over – after the commentator reads out the score – or after there’s been a sufficient amount of time following the fall of a wicket.

South African and Australian sports channels sometimes don’t show advertisements at all. That’s why you will find me browsing the vast array of channels at my disposal, desperately searching for an alternative to Pakistani television.

Oh, and they just stopped Lala mid-celebration in favour of a man selling potatoes who is somehow related to a bank. Blasphemy!

If Pakistani channels really want higher ratings, they need to stop getting other channels banned and increase their own allure. Cutting down on advertising will go a long way. There must be a way to reduce the number of ads – shorter ads, maybe? PEMRA restrictions, maybe? Having 30 sponsors on the cricket team’s uniform, maybe? (Just, please leave some space for the flag).

Having chirpier pre-match show hosts and panellists might also help (I’m looking at you, Bazid Khan).

I will end this here because now I really, really feel the need to go and buy insurance (because its good with trucks), some biscuits (they solve marital issues and make women want to dance, why wouldn’t I?), only one kind of carbonated beverage (because I really love Ayesha Umar’s totally not auto-tuned voice telling me that my “heart wants it now”, again and again), a couple of phones (the perfect way to make friends and be k3wl. There. I said it), five mobile phone SIM cards (there must be some way to save money by using all five simultaneously, right?) and to wash it all down, a cup of tea (because Rameez bhai said so).

And here’s Wasim Akram selling that phone again. What. A. Man.

Zain Saeed

Zain Saeed

A devout cricketist, Zain graduated from LUMS last year and is now on his way to Germany to pursue a Masters in Linguistics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.