"A new sense of dynamism prevails within DD" : Dr S Y Quraishi Doordarshan director general

Doordarshan director general Dr S Y Quraishi was pretty upbeat on the evening of the announcement of its World Cup Cricket 2003 telecast plans on the national network. The state-owned pubcaster and its air time sales and broadcast sponsorship partner Nimbus Communications were confident that it would garner a substantial chunk of the world advertising spend for the World Cup 2003.

Quraishi came across as fairly open to deal with market realities. He unveiled the original World Cup trophy, held it aloft, and posed happily with the Prasar Bharati CEO K.S. Sarma and Nimbus Communications boss Harish Thawani for the paparazzi. And he answered questions of media planners, journalists with aplomb.

"We are changing as a corporation, becoming more market responsive," he said.‘s Ashwin Kotian caught up with him for a short interview on the sidelines of the Nimbus World Cup bash.


Are you happy with the deal worked out for the telecasting the World Cup 2003 cricket matches ?

As a public broadcaster, our mandate is to take sports to the people. Our highest priority is to bring major events to a platform which could be easily accessible to as many Indians as possible. We are extremely happy that Nimbus, an organization that has shared a wonderful relationship with us, has brought the World Cup 2003 event to DD and AIR. This arrangement, (we shall refrain from calling it a "deal" because the word "deal" has got some wrong connotations in recent times) is in the best interests of the viewers.

Both GCC (Global Cricket Corporation) and Nimbus Communications came up with a reasonable proposition. There were six long meetings with Nimbus coupled with some hard bargaining. There were several internal meetings before we finally crystallized the mechanics of the arrangement. We have be to careful of every minute detail as DD is a government body that is subjected to audits and vigilance.

For the World Cup 2003, DD will get a minimum guaranteed revenue of anything between Rs 160 million and Rs 200 million for the World Cup Cricket 2003. Again, it depends on how well the Indian cricket team does!

However, every match which matters from a ratings viewpoint and weekend big matches will air on DD National. DD will also be airing a one hour daily highlights package throughout the 43-day tournament, apart from the ‘Opening Ceremony‘ and the ‘Concert of the Official Music Album‘ of the Cricket World Cup 2003.

For the forthcoming World Cup 2003, the original digital world feed will be transmitted by DD. And our commentary team is par excellence: Ravi Shastri, Tony Greig, Barry Richards, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ian Botham, Martin Crowe, Rameez Raja, Ian Healy, Michael Holding, David Gower, Ian Bishop and Bob Willis.

What do you feel about the "deals" involving the telecasting of sports events?

Sports events appeal to everyone and cut across all kinds of barriers. This is true of a highly populated country like India where there are many people who love to watch sporting events. However, the owners of sporting event properties have exploited the situation. DD faced a lot of problems during the World Cup Soccer 2002 and the Asian Games 2002.

DD is a member of the Asian Broadcasting Union (ABU) and we should not have had any problems in bagging the telecast rights of the Asian Games. However, the Korean company that had the rights of the Asian Games acted tough with us in order to obtain a better deal. Also, the delay in negotiations resulted in the finalisation of the agreement at virtually the last moment. This delay prevented us from effectively marketing the time slots available.

A similar problem was witnessed during the World Cup Soccer 2002 earlier this year. We were unclear till the last moment and the uncertainty led to dissatisfaction amongst the country‘s soccer fans.

What was the biggest success for DD in 2002?

The greatest commercial success story for DD in 2002 was the fact we mopped up Rs 530 million in booking and marketing of airtime for the India-West Indies domestic cricket series in October 2002.

The series included seven One-Day Internationals and three Test matches. It was an eye opener!

It also made us aware of our abilities. Initially, we advertised for a basic guaranteed amount but did not get a single bid. Later, a marketing agency backed out at the last moment. We decided to market it ourselves and did an extremely good job. We actually sold the inventory within four days!

DD booked three main sponsors including TVS, Coca Cola and Hindustan Lever. The five associate sponsors for the series were Kelvinator, LG Electronics, Asian Paints, Cadburys, HPCL, Blue Star, Raymond, Hyundai, Onida, Canon amongst others as advertisers for the series.

The best part is that we geared up quickly to handle the entire programming on our own. We had to coordinate the entire effort in terms of screening the ‘live‘ feed and the scheduling of the advertisements. There were some minor glitches - just around five instances - in the entire series. But, overall, we are happy with our performance and so are our advertisers.

We expect many of these advertisers to support us during the forthcoming World Cup.

Quraishi unveiling the World Cup 2003 trophy along with Prasar Bharati CEO K S Sarma at the Nimbus bash in Mumbai on Wednesday
"DD is the single largest audience delivery vehicle in the country"

What initiatives have you drawn up to replicate this success and promote future DD programmes?

DD‘s success with the India-West Indies series has infused a sense of dynamism into our promotional efforts.

For the first time ever, the cricket World Cup‘s broadcast on Doordarshan will be supported by a multimedia promotional campaign including print, FM radio, outdoor, the Internet, mobile telephony, on-air promos, consumer contests etc.

Earlier, we did not have marketing offices in different parts of the country. Since the last year and a half, we have been recruiting some young professionals with management degrees to man our marketing offices in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai. There are plans to start new offices in Trivandrum and Delhi. This is in addition to our other marketing partners like Nimbus.

We have entered into a barter arrangement with several newspaper groups wherein they give us coverage for our programmes.

We are also examining the possibility of using the outdoor media in a big way. In fact, we are meeting one of the top outdoor publicity firms in the next few days. They are giving us a concrete plan for optimizing the awareness levels of our programmes.

We are also examining other non-traditional channels such as multimedia publicity.

The independent producers have stepped up their individual efforts to promote their programmes. Recently, a certain producer sent me an entire set of the media coverage he had generated for a certain programme. That particular programme started off with a TVR of 6.2 for the first episode and touched 7.9 in the next one.

"The fifth ranked programme on DD had a better rating than the first ranked programme on the best C&S channel"

Quraishi and Sarma pose with the World Cup trophy with Nimbus‘ Harish Thawani and Carat India‘s Meenakshi Madhvani

What advantage does DD have over the satellite channels?

DD is the single largest audience delivery vehicle in the country!

Our rates are fixed and don‘t fluctuate as the ‘perceived value‘ of the programme increases. Transparency and rigidity are part of our rate structure. This instills a certain amount of trust in our style of operations. We don‘t have any hidden agenda. And, we constantly deliver higher audiences to our advertisers.

DD has a reach span of 83 million TV homes. If you multiply that by a minimum of four people in each household, you can imagine the number of viewers that we bring to the table. DD reaches larger audiences than private channels do.

Recently, we conducted a study wherein we compared the top five programmes on DD with those of the best C&S channel. The fifth ranked programme on DD had a better rating than the first ranked programme on the C&S channel. All our five programmes delivered audiences ranging between 7.8 million to 13.5 million.

What about the issue of reception of DD and other channels?

We continue to receive complaints from viewers about the quality of the reception. However, it is imperative to note that the entire reception chain comprising of the broadcast of all the DD channels via satellite and our 1200 transmitters is in the digital format. The onus is on the cable operators to present it in the requisite form to the viewers.

Of course, it is mandatory for the cable operators to place three channels on the prime band. But, this mandatory norm is not often implemented.

However, whenever the cable operators have a tussle with the C&S channels and resort to using DD for telecasting a particular programme, the telecast quality of DD improves drastically. The quality of the telecast of these cricket matches proves that the ‘quality‘ problem exists at the cable operators‘ end.

The viewers should either assert themselves with the cable operators or pass on the relevant feedback to us in order to enable us to act.

We hope that the forthcoming implementation of CAS (conditional access system) will eventually change the existing situation. For the forthcoming World Cup 2003, the original digital World feed will be transmitted by DD.                 

Will any of the other DD channels go pay in the near future?

That is absolutely out of the question!

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