Television

BCCI, Nimbus look to give domestic cricket a facelift

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MUMBAI: For many years domestic cricket in India suffered from neglect by the administration (read Board of Control for Cricket in India - BCCI). However, the Indian cricket board, along with its television partner Nimbus, are looking to turn things around. The plan calls for rebranding of domestic cricket events as well as telecast of domestic cricket not just in India, but also abroad.

The season kicks off from 1 October and runs till April 2007. The matches will air on Neo Sports, which is being positioned as the Home of Indian Cricket on TV. Neo Sports launches on 1 October 2006.

BCCI VP and marketing subcommittee chairman Lalit Nodi says, "It has been a dream for us to make sure that domestic cricket is given as much importance as international cricket. We have given brand names to domestic events.

"So the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy will now be known as Challenger Series for the NKP Salve Trophy, the Ranji Trophy - Elite Division is now titled the Super League for the Ranji Trophy, The Ranji Trophy Plate Division is now known as the Plate League, and the Deodhar Trophy is now known as the All Star Series for the Deodhar Trophy.

"The Inter State One Day Knockout is now known as the Premier Cup. This initiative is the first of a series of exciting plans that we have in store. While we are looking to get players of the Indian national side to play, the aim is to have many stars emerge from domestic cricket. Why should there be only 11 cricket stars? We can easily have 300. We will monitor innovations as we go along. We are also looking at the mobile to promote domestic cricket. Mobile is a viral medium courtesy features like SMS and this is an area that we are looking to tap into. This will provide a value add for fans who want to follow their team."

Nimbus Chairman Harish Thawani says, "This has been a three month process of us working with the BCCI so that our goals were aligned. When we telecast the Challenger Trophy last year on a recently launched network (Zee Sports) it managed TRPs of 1.93. This shows that television does bring in an audience for domestic cricket.

"What we are doing though is not just a branding exercise. We worked with the BCCI on the scheduling. A lot of time went into working on the logistics. The aim is that domestic cricket should not overlap with the days on which the Indian national side is playing. The one day matches will be day/night fixtures. Over 80 per cent of ODI matches will be day/night encounters.

"We have also managed to persuade licensees globally to air domestic cricket. So domestic cricket will be seen in the UK on Sky Sports, in Australia on Fox Sports, in Malaysia on Astro and in Africa on Super Sport. On the net it will be webcast on www.willow.tv. We are also expecting to announce a deal in the US."

Thawani, however, adds that it will take one season to see what impact the push being given to domestic cricket has had.

BCCI member IS Bindra was frank enough to admit that it was the BCCI's fault that domestic cricket has languished to the extent that hardly any people come out to watch matches. "There was a time when a Deodhar Trophy match would have 70,000 people in attendance. One of the failings of the BCCI in the past has been the lack of attention given to domestic cricket. We are looking to correct this. Television coverage by Nimbus will attract people to the arena. It will give viewers the feeling that something of importance is happening. Last year when the Challenger Trophy was telecast we had a 70 per cent attendance on the ground. For the final it was 100 per cent full. In Australia often the finals of the domestic season have a better attendance than some international one day matches.

"In England the tickets for the final matches of the domestic season are booked a year in advance. I don't see why we cannot approach that level with proper marketing of our product. Aggressive marketing helps and a good example is the BCCI rankings for domestic cricket which will be launched next month. We have managed to raise 10-15 times more than what the ICC has managed for their rankings. We are on the brink of a revolution as far as domestic cricket is concerned."

Thawani adds that Nimbus is looking to sell daily news packages of domestic cricket to news channels.

One important issue is that of advertising. It is no secret that viewers are unhappy about the sheer volume of ads in a match. Often one sees five balls in an over instead of six as the channel has gone for an ad break at the fall of a wicket. Thawani says that an automated playout system is being put in place so that not a ball is lost. There will be no manual override.

Modi says that this issue is being taken seriously by the BCCI. It has in fact mandated that it cannot happen. "If ads are put in when a wicket falls instead of a channel showing replays of the wicket taken and a ball is lost then it is a breach of contract," Modi asserted.

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