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ESS scores big; secures soccer World Cup 2006 rights
Indiantelevision.com Team
(2 February 2005 6:00 pm)

MUMBAI: ESPN Star Sports (ESS) has just added the biggest soccer property of them all to its draw card. The sports broadcaster has acquired exclusive telecast rights for the Indian subcontinent for the 2006 Fifa World Cup to be held in Germany.


The Fifa World Cup, the globe's biggest sporting spectacle after the Olympics (and which rates much higher on the passion scale) will showcase a month of soccer frenzy from 9 June to 9 July 2006.

ESS struck the deal with Infront Sports & Media, which is world football’s governing body Fifa's exclusive television partner for the event. ESS will have full and exclusive coverage of the event. This latest acquisition is the icing on the cake for ESS which already has the English Premier League, Spanish Primera Liga, Uefa Champions League, Uefa Cup and the FA Cup package in its kitty.

As a runup to the big event ESS has a lineup of properties which will be used to build up the momentum. In June this year, the broadcaster will be showcasing the action from the Fifa World Youth Championships. The event kicks off in the Netherlands on 10 June, 2005.

This will be followed immediately by the Fifa Confederations Cup 2005 which starts in Germany from 15 June, 2005 and will be played across five German cities. The event concludes on 29 June 2005. The Confederations Cup 2005 will see hosts Germany against Olympic champions Argentina, Australia and Tunisia. While in Group B defending World Cup champions Brazil will take on the European champions Greece as well as Japan and Mexico.


Just how big the World Cup is can be gauged from the benefit the previous rights holder Ten Sports got in 2002. The event had served as a launching pad for the Bukhatir owned broadcaster giving it distribution across the country.

One issue that will crop up is Doordarshan's insistence on it being given the feed for events of "national importance". Last year both ESS (Bangladesh tour) and Ten Sports (Pakistan tour) suffered as a result though it was cricket that was in play. While Ten was forced to give its feed to DD for India's historic tour of Pakistan in March, ESS faced the music when India toured Bangladesh in December.

Asked to comment on this, ESS India MD RC Venkateish said he was awaiting the Supreme Court's verdict on the matter where Ten Sports' appeal is also pending. "We are hopeful that our interests will be safeguarded. We will also seek the cooperation of the local police in case our signal is stolen by cable operators during the World Cup," Venkateish opined.

"One thing that cable operators are realising is that ESS is not about one or two big events. So this year regardless of the fate of the India cricket rights I do not expect to face any problems on the ground," Venkateish asserted. It may be recalled that in 2002 Ten Sports had taken stringent action against erring cable operators who attempted to steal its signal for the World Cup.

On a more positive note Venkateish said that in the lead up to the World Cup the channel will come out with a host of specials. These will focus on the key players as well as how the teams are preparing. "This latest acquisition means that more than 25 million households in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan will watch our coverage of the event. We will have English and Hindi commentary, daily pre-shows during match days, a daily review show as well as special lead-up programming.

"The surge in ratings for the telecast of the Euro 2004 in the Indian market clearly shows the growing popularity of soccer in India. Our investment in localising our content and adding Hindi commentary definitely added further in increasing the penetration for the game resulting in an increase in TRPs."

On the marketing front one can expect roadshows as well as the different media to be used to get the message across to football fans.

A mad rush for tickets: Meanwhile tickets for the World Cup went on sale yesterday over the internet. However, fans in Britain were angry that the only credit card they can use to buy them is Mastercard.

A spokesman for Fifa said: "It’s true that Mastercard is the exclusive card at this stage of the process, but no objection has been raised by the European Commission and there are other payment methods.

"Every customer throughout the world has two months to place his or her order for tickets. All the orders will be registered and if there is a surplus of demand, a draw will be made. There has never been a more transparent or fairer approach to sale of tickets for such an event."

Applications for tickets came from 108 countries including Burkina Faso and Macao, although the vast majority -- around 80 per cent -- were from within Germany. Not surprisingly demand for the final match on 9 July 2006 is the highest. The overall demand is also high despite the fact that Germany is still the only nation to be certain of qualifying for the 32-team event.

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