"We want to make an emotional and marketing connection with Indian viewers" : Chris McDonald CEO of the Abdulrahman Bukhatir-promoted Ten Sports.

Chris McDonald has seen it all in sports television in Asia and India. He was one of the key senior professionals in launching sports TV services such as ESPN and Star Sports as basic pay TV services in India and was also involved in the rationalisation of both which resulted in ESPN-Star Sports. Today he is facing a fresh challenge as CEO of the Abdulrahman Bukhatir-promoted Ten Sports.


His charge has not managed to develop partnerships with the MSOs in the major metros, despte a marketing push and a distribution ally. That should be worrisome with a big property like the World Cup football hardly a fortnight or so away. But McDonald is not letting these problems bog him down. In a free wheeling conversation with, he says things are on course and that Ten Sports is here to stay.




On Ten Sports‘ distribution in India.


I won‘t say I‘m satisfied. We are in about 10 million homes currently, which is quite good coverage for a month old television channel. Yes, there are holdouts in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore but we are in discussions with the MSOs in these areas.


I am expecting greater progress every day with the big push that we are givng Ten Sports. With the World Cup coming soon, I expect to finalise the discussions and reach our target of 20-30 million homes by then.


I won‘t call what we are facing as problems, rather it is a natural process of growth for a new service. Our partner HMA Udyog - yes, Modi Entertainment is one of the promoters - has placed a signficant number of Irdeto Atlanta DTH boxes in India. Yes, there are minimum guarantees in the contract and achievements, but I don‘t want to dwell on that now.


"We are a big player and cricket is a sport we will have on our plate"


On Ten Sports, the channel.


We have a very good product in Ten Sports, we have very high production values and I want to improve the product further. Yes, we don‘t have cricket this year, which is the biggest thing in India. But from next year, we have loads of it. Additionally, we have the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) fights which are the next most popular sport in India after cricket. There is a positive buzz in the market after we aired the first of the fights last week.


On specifics about the sports properties lined up.


We have lots of cricket lined up for 2003. Two tournaments in Morocco, two in Sharjah, and the tours of cricket playing nations in Sri Lanka. The CSI cricket covering Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe and Pakistan rights are up for grabs. We are pursuing all these rights aggressively. We are a big player and cricket is a sport we will have on our plate. We expect the bid results to be out in the next one or two months.


But it is not as if Ten Sports will be just about cricket, like the other channels. It‘s an expensive game, mark my words. We want to make an emotional connection with Indian viewers, we want a marketing connect with the viewer. We want to promote Indian sport like go-karting, golf, racing.


The response to Ten Sports from advertisers has been good. So we are on track in India.


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