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The Willow TV Saga and the Sad Story of Live Cricket in the US

by Samir Chopra

Yesterday while emailing Naked, the absurdity of my situation with Willow TV almost made me laugh out loud. I've basically been emailing these guys that I want to give them my money and they can't be bothered. There is something so magnificently ludicrous about their (lack of ) reaction to my emails as well. Their feelings are hurt by the fact that I emailed them more than once, thus showing my impatience with their lack of response.

But once I was done with the initial desire to have a giggle, I sobered up, fast. Because one thing this situation reminds me of is that twenty four years after moving to the US, getting live cricket here, without a hassle, is still a distant dream. And in the most perverse of twists, a Desi company has the monopoly for live streaming of cricket in the US, has centered its support staff back in Bangalore, has not provided a phone number, and has ensured, that again, I'm denied cricket. There is something classically Sarkari, classically Desi-in-a-bad-way, about this whole episode in its rank incompetence and supreme indifference to the consumer.

In 1987, I watched the World Cup final live thanks to a satellite hookup, months after I arrived in the US. Between that World Cup and the next one, I had no access to live cricket. In 1992, I watched a bit of the Cup at a bar in New Jersey, thanks to a tip from a friend. We had to convince the bartender to tune the television to the correct dish channel, beg and plead for some volume (and even then, it didn't do much good because the bar was too loud). Then, again, no live cricket till the 1996 World Cup. Things were better for this one. The cable company carried the matches on pay-per-view. I subscribed for the entire package, taped the games, and then watched them on tape-delay after I got home, making sure I talked to no one during the day who could tell me the scores. I also managed to watch the Toronto one-day internationals, both on pay-per-view and at a theater in Queens. In 2000, I moved to Australia, which was two years of bliss. But on returning to the US in 2000, it was a classic case of 'same as it ever was'.

Since 2005/6, I've been Willow's customer, subscribing for a series here and a series there, and then in the last two years, I've subscribed for annual subscriptions (the so-called Blockbuster package). In 2009, I was irritated when they terminated the subscription abruptly on Dec 31st rather than letting it run through till the end of the Pakistan-Australia tests, but I could at least understand their quasi-pedantic reasoning then. Earlier this year, I thought we had hit the promised land; Willow had fixed its media player, offered streaming through TV. I bought the World Cup package and had a great time.

But alas, that was yet another tease. Just like the clerk at ITO tells you that your papers are ready, and then simply refuses to show up for work the next day, Willow just dropped the ball.

And so in 2011, it feels like 1987 all over again. No live cricket for this Desi exile in the US.


Anonymous said...

Buy the JADOO TV & you don't have to bother with Willow Tv

Golandaaz said...

I am not sure how legal JADOO is.

But what a surprise. TEN Cricket is carrying the Test matches live!!

I get that channel as part of Dish Network's Hindi Programming pack.

I think with ESPN willing the rights to cricket in USA starting 2012 (I read it somewhere not sure) Willow TV is toast. I doubt they ever had the rights to any cricket after the world cup.

Not sure what the deal is but they don't seem to care so why should we.

samir said...


I simply cannot wrap my head around what is happening. A loyal customer wants to pay, but they won't be bothered. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with online streaming as my building does not allow satellite dishes.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

Interesting read , though understandably not for you ! I didnt realise it was so difficult. i'd have thought a desi package would offer a couple of channels, like in other parts of the world. Shame...hope you get this sorted before the england tour (u're not missing much until then :))Good luck !

Bhaskar Khaund said...

PS - for some reverse customer service , why dont you send them a thoughtful bouquet along with the brickbats - a nice Weeping Willow bonsai ? (" Your future , guys !" , etc) :)

Golandaaz said...

Yeah, i think a bit of gandhigiri would be worth trying

JP said...

Willow TV has horrible customer service and they never respond to any emails. There is no contact number either.

These guys are also taking my money monthly without providing any good cricket that I wanted. Initially, they had the entire list of IPL4 matches that they were going to telecast, so I bought a package. And, to my surprise, they didn't show a single IPL match.

I'm waiting for a response from Willow TV. If I don't hear anything in a few days, I'm thinking of legal action. Some one has to teach them a lesson.

Samir Chopra said...

Bhaskar: Thanks for your comment. Its not clear where one would send anything to, as there is no address provided!

Golandaaz: I'm wondering if its a good idea to send an email to Srinivasan that is signed by more than one person. I'll check with Gaurav to see if we can get some FB members/Willow subscribers to write together.

JP: That is interesting i.e., that you haven't heard from Willow either. Can you please send me an email at samirchopra1 AT Yahoo DOT com?

Golandaaz said...

@Samir: Yes lets do that. A letter with multiple signs

Here is an address for Willow TV, I got from the Better Business Bureau

Willow TV
1287 Anvilwood Ave
Sunnyvale, CA 94089

Willow TV the cricket channel is still showing recorded world cup games and advertising the WC

Meanwhile Ten Cricket is running promotional Ads for India's tour of the West Indies.

samir said...

Golandaaz: Thanks for the address. I have a phone number for a Mr. Vijay Chattha who might be connected to Willow and who I plan to call today. There is no phone number for Willow TV under Yellow pages (as far as I can tell).

Golandaaz said...

At the same address there is another company operating

Here is their number (408) 400-4106

On the surface it seems to be the company that is branded as Willow TV. Just a wild ass guess.

Devanshu said...

It seems- and this is only what I've patched together- Willow had the rights to the IPL until early this year. Then the BCCI (not the Bored, but the Board), in all their wisdom, decided to re-auction the rights. Indiatimes won this time, and Willow was left with nothing. And IndiaTimes is useless in the USA.