Television

ESS looking to hit a distribution 'Grand Slam' in smaller markets

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MUMBAI: To say that the relationship between broadcasters and cable operators has been rough would be putting things mildly. However, ESPN Star Sports is looking to change that in its own way.



To this effect, it has introduced a Grand Slam programme. Its main aim is to foster goodwill amongst its cable affiliates through Grand Slam. Of course, another benefit which could accrue as a corollary is higher subscription revenues.



Speaking on this, ESPN affiliate sales vice president Sricharan Iyengar says, " We introduced this a couple of months ago with the aim of improving and building upon the relationships between us and our cable affiliate partners. Most of the time we function like two adversaries and with this we want to make them feel that they are working in the same space with us as partners."



"So far, 1000 customers have signed up. Right now our focus is on the smaller cities and towns where you can deal with the operators directly. We will look at the metros later on where the MSO comes into play," says Iyengar.



"The programme works on three levels. At the first level the participants will be judged on a consistency basis which will work month by month. Based on increased declarations and revenue flow they get bonus points. This works like a frequent flyer programme. When they collect a certain number of points, these can be redeemed for prizes like holidays, household items."



"At the second level, an aspirational value is added. A lot of cable operators in the smaller places have not had the opportunity to interact with celebrity commentators on our shows like Harsha Bhogle, Sunil Gavaskar. So Bhogle could do a phone in programme for the operator or even visit him."



Iyengar added that the third level would see big ticket items being auctioned. Members of the programme could bid for durables like a car. This would happen every quarter. In addition every member gets a card. With this card he can avail of discounts at retail outlets, restaurants. For this purpose the broadcaster is looking to make the necessary tie ups.



The uncharitable would say that the direct contact concept looks to have been "inspired" by a similar effort from Sony's One Alliance. Sony's cricket brand ambassador Kapil Dev has been taken across the country and has proved a huge hit with the cable fraternity.



However, ESS denies this saying that the sports network has been having direct contact programmes with cable ops, taking Harsha Bhogle to them, three years ago, much before Sony decided to hire Kapil as its cricket ambassador.

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