Television

Ten Sports scores big with 2002 Fifa World Cup rights

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Taj Entertainment Network (Ten) Sports is not letting any grass grow under its feet in its bid to make a mark on the sports broadcast arena. The new kid on the sports block gave notice to rivals ESPN Star Sports (and Sony Entertainment Television) when it announced today it had secured all cable, satellite and terrestrial rights for the 2002 Fifa World Cup to be hosted by Korea/Japan in June. 

Abdulrahman Bukhatir's Taj Television Ltd won the rights after placing a higher bid than both ESPN Star Sports and Sony Entertainment. 

A total of 64 matches is what will be showcased in what is without doubt the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, ahead of even the Olympic Games in sheer size of audience terms. The World Cup kicks off on 31 May and is a month-long soccer extravaganza. This is the first time that the event will take place in Asia, a real boost as far as viewership is concerned. The 1998 World Cup in France garnered pathetic viewership essentially because the live telecast, prime time in Europe, was at unearthly hours of the morning in India. 

Another major advantage that Ten Sports will have as far as getting a return on its investment is concerned is that it has got the terrestrial telecast rights as well. This in effect means that there will be no split in the ad revenues between it and national broadcaster Doordarshan. 

This is also significant as far as pushing distribution numbers is concerned because Ten will have a much stronger bargaining position vis-a-vis cable operators for its subscription rate of Rs 12 which it expects to have fully rolled out by the World Cup's kick-off date. 

This is not to say that it can totally deny DD the rights to telecast matches due to clauses that Fifa has built into all deals regarding broadcast by the national terrestrial broadcaster. So it may well be that from the last eight onwards (including the semi-finals and the finals) the matches will be available on DD.

According to an official release, Taj Television has signed an agreement with KirchMedia WM GmbH, the worldwide rights holder for the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups, for the exclusive live telecast of the World Cup. KirchMedia WM GmbH is a subsidiary of KirchSport AG, the Swiss-based sports marketing company responsible for overseeing the marketing, sales and production responsibilities for the 2002 and 2006 World Cup. 

Taj Television CEO Chris McDonald says: "It is indeed an honour for the channel to have acquired the world's greatest sporting event. As promised, we are providing the best of world sport on the channel and we assure soccer fans that Ten Sports will capture every bit of the excitement and euphoria that is synonymous with World Cup Soccer." 

Says Oliver Seibert, Head of Television Sales for KirchSport AG: "This is a landmark deal. We are extremely happy that Ten Sports will be telecasting the 2002 Fifa World Cup live to this significant part of Asia. We are certain that Ten Sports, who have recently started operations, will do great justice to the world's largest sporting event." 

The World Cup will have 32 teams participating, including debutantes Senegal and Tunisia. The teams are divided into eight groups of four teams each. The preliminary stage of the World Cup is the Group league phase wherein the top two teams move into the next round-the round of 16. Following the round of 16 is the quarterfinals (round of 8) followed by the semi-finals and the finals. 

Along with the World Cup, the Ten Sports programme line up also features cricket triangulars from Morocco, Classic India-Pakistan Cricket, The Sharjah Cup and The Sharjah Champions Trophy as well as all international cricket from Sri Lanka. Ten is also in efforts to secure the television rights contract of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

Ten Sports also has WWF (World Wrestling Federation), The English FA Cup, Manchester United Football, the WTA (professional women's tennis), ATP Dubai Tennis Open, The Ryder Cup, The British Open, Champions Trophy Hockey and Champions Challenge Hockey. 

Another property that Ten is hoping to cash in on in a big way is the WWF series. The cartoon element that is a part and parcel of the whole thing has made superstars out of the lead players. But at least as far as the US is concerned the craze is clearly waning. The Ten Sports team must be hoping that is not the case in India. 

Meanwhile, Taj Sports is just setting up its distribution arm in Pakistan and will be available there through a private cable operator company. In India, it is Modi Group company HMA Udyog that is handling distribution. 

And that's where, more than anything else, Ten clearly hopes to score with the World Cup. On distribution.

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