Television

Extra bigger, Extraaa entertainment - MAX formula

MUMBAI: The Mahasangram has begun in India exactly one month before the first ball of the South Africa versus West Indies match is bowled.

While unveiling their exciting plans for the ICC cricket World Cup 2003 (WCC), SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta claimed that a new vocabulary will be needed to describe the greatest cricket spectacle of all times. At a function held in Mumbai's JW Marriott Hotel, MAX formally announced that TV stars Mandira Bedi, Sandhya Mridul will join Charu Sharma, Maa Prem Ritambhara (tarot reader) and Maria Goretti in presenting Extraaa Innings.

MAX brand ambassador Kapil Dev flagged off the "Go India Go!" national signature campaign involving a MAX van that will travel across 100 cities and towns. giving Indian fans an opportunity to wish the Indian cricket team. The MAX van will collect good luck messages which in turn will be presented to the Indian cricket team before the tournament starts!

Also present were cricketing personalities like Arjuna Ranatunga, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Robin Singh, Arun Lal and L Sivaramakrishnan, all of who will form part of the commentary team.

SET and MAX, the two channels within the network, will telecast live 51 matches out of the total of 54 matches being held in primarily in South Africa. MAX will air 36 matches and the balance 18 matches will air on SET as the MAX team believes that the mass entertainment channels' prime time schedules will not be affected. MAX will also telecast the opening ceremony on 8 February 2003.

Dasgupta referred to the huge aura of grandeur that had already developed months before the opening ceremony: promotions, contests, unavailability of tickets to South Africa, demand for charter flights. "The format for the forthcoming World Cup cricket is the same as that of the previous one; MAX is attempting to broaden the entertainment value of cricket-related programming," added Dasgupta.

Objectives of MAX's plans for the WCC:

*Increase and encourage the involvement of male and female viewers with its cricket programming. During both, the live cricket action through its unique customisation of live cricket by leveraging world-class commentators, experts and talent; also with its engrossing wrap-around programming including the animated 'Tiger' packaged under the popular Extraaa Innings brand.

*Innovative promotions and on-ground activities to create buzz and excitement

* Provide customised packages and innovative platforms to advertisers and enable them to reach across to relevant audiences in the most effective manner.

Commentators:

An exclusive team of commentators lined up for MAX include Kapil Dev, Jeff Thompson, Roshan Mahanama, Ian Bishop, Arjuna Ranatunga, Mike Atherton, Arun Lal, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, L Sivaramakrishnan, Mark Nicholas, Robin Singh and Anshuman Gaekwad.

The others signed up for commentary and expert analysis include Tony Grieg, Barry Richards, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, Rameez Raja, Tony Cozier, Ian Smith, Aamir Sohail, Andy Pycroft, Mike Haysman, Mark Butcher, Dean Jones, Ranjit Fernando and Robin Jackman - many of who will be available on the world feed too.

Multi-media campaign:

MAX is planning a multi-media campaign to create hype and buzz around the WCC comprising outdoor campaign, on-ground promotions, on-air capsules and direct marketing campaign.

MAX brand ambassador and Wisden cricketer of the century Kapil Dev had been visiting several cities to play and interact with his fans, cable operators through an innovative promotion called Gully Cricket.

MAX brand ambassador Kapil Dev added: "Gully Cricket's concept is close to my heart because it gives me an opportunity to reach out to cricket lovers and to give back something to the game in my own humble way." Media analysts however claim that this was just a way of pacifying cable operators and warding off unwanted rebellion closer to the WCC.

"Indians are passionate and emotional about cricket. And while MAX will celebrate and address this passion in its cricket presentation throughout the forthcoming World Cup, it is also reaching out and touching a deep-seated desire of Indian cricket fans - that of seeing their team lifting the coveted trophy once again. Hence, the signature campaign," added Dasgupta.

Extraaa Innings and cricket-related programming on a bigger scale:

MAX executive vice president and business head Rajat Jain set the tone by stating: "We shall bring to our viewers live, exclusive and customised coverage The coverage that includes exclusive commentators, experts and the engrossing wrap-around cricket programming for Extraaa Innings! Our aim is to make this event the most entertaining presentation of 'live' and 'out-of-live' cricket for every cricket fan in India!"

Extraaa Innings includes Cricket Cuisine, Khel Kismet Ka, Shop Talk, Stun, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Travel Postcard, funfillers, fun features and Predikta amongst others. Among the main attractions is Maa Prem Ritambhara, who, the channel officials claimed, was on the mark with her tarot card-based prophesies during the ICC Champions Trophy 2002.

Jain added: "Predikta will be an integral component of Extraaa Innings this time too; but it has morphed into a bigger version of its earlier format. Last time, we got 1.5 million SMS messages. There were complaints by people who don't own mobile phones. This time, we have made arrangements to receive viewer responses on fixed telephone lines too. There will be three versions: Predikta Insta, Krazy and Jackpot!"

When questioned about the reactions of purists to the wrap-around casual programming shroud, MAX officials claimed that the purists were critical of all new innovations in the game - be it one-day cricket format or the Kerry Packer series - but gradually accepted the innovations. They also added that the host of cricketers lined up could cater to the purists.

Dasgupta retorted that DD, ESPN and others were creating Extraaa Innings kind of programmes. "This showed that the concept had been successful and the industry had taken note of the same, " he added.

Kapil Dev stated: I am happy to have been part of MAX's innovations in cricket broadcasting, programming and promotions from day one. Our commitment to exploiting the maximum entertainment potential of this wonderful game has helped us to take it to the largest number of viewers ever. I am confident that the World Cup 2003 numbers will be even bigger and viewers will get even more entertainment from both, the customised live action and the wonderful aspects of Extraaa Innings."

Extraaa Innings' new look team:

The svelte cricket-loving Mandira Bedi has replaced bubbly Ruby Bhatia in MAX's Extraaa Innings for the forthcoming World Cup Cricket 2003. Bedi's inclusion is targeted at attracting women viewers during the early afternoon slots when the World Cup commences early February.

The reasoning being that Bedi, unlike Bhatia, could relate better with women viewers with her Indian looks and wholesome appeal, feel industry sources. MAX officials also claimed that Bedi's "Hindustani" image, her passion for cricket and her fluency in Hindi made her an ideal choice.

On being signed as the anchor of Extraaa Innings, Mandira Bedi said : "In all my years of working, this is the most exciting, the best job I've every got. I never thought there were avenues for women in cricket broadcasting, but thanks to MAX's efforts to maximise cricket entertainment and get the housewife more interested in cricket, I am on the Extraaa Innings team."

Veteran presenter Charu Sharma, who survived the chop that his co-presenter Ruby Bhatia (during the Champions Trophy) got added: " During the course of my 20-year stint in sports programming, I thought that I had seen it all. But, the ICC cricket World Cup 2003 is the biggest cricket tournament in terms of tremendous action, colour and entertainment. I am excited."

Another addition is TV star Sandhya Mridul of Hubahu fame, who was enjoying a break from television. "I got a call from the SET MAX team and I grabbed the opportunity as it will be a new experience for me. I admit that I am not a cricket freak but I enjoy watching sports. Primarily, I want be part of the cricket mania that will envelope the entire country and all other cricketing nations," Mridul added. 

MAX is using every trick in the trade to ensure that the 'live' matches and programming revolving around matches will grab the uninitiated viewers as well as the purists!

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