Television

'Sports broadcast ad market to grow to Rs 7 billion this year' : Rukin Kizilbash - Taj Television India GM

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It has been a busy and somewhat testing time for Ten Sports. Last year Zee took a 50 per cent stake in its parent Taj Television while this year the channel has had to make do without any India cricket showcase. As a result, it has had to push other properties.

Additionally, a plethora of cricket rights that it holds come up for bidding in the coming months. Indiantelevision.com's Sibabrata Das and Ashwin Pinto caught up with Taj Television India GM Rukin Kizilbash to find out more.

Excerpts:

How has not having India cricket this year impacted Ten Sports?

It has impacted us quite a bit. It is a fact of life that things are not as smooth without India cricket. For each India series you make in the region of Rs 700 million to Rs 1 billion. Last year, Ten Sports had one series. The year before, there were two.

However our reach and GRPs have not been impacted. This is in part due to WWE (wrestling). Our reach is at 30 per cent.

Next year should be better though as we will have India's tour of Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

But wouldn't it be a crucial phase for Ten Sports as two prime properties - Pakistan and Sri Lanka boards - come up for bids next year?

It will be a crucial 12 months for us as the rights for Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies come up for renewal. But we expect to renew our contracts.

Will the acquisition price for these rights shoot up with Sony back in the race and the others showing hunger to pocket more cricket properties?

I don't think that the acquisition price will shoot up drastically. India, after all, visits them just once in four years. So when you buy board rights, you basically buy one India tour. It is not like the ICC events where India always participates.

Why is it that you recently bought the South Africa rights for just one year?

We got the rights for South Africa and Zimbabwe for one year. We will hopefully get these rights for five years once the current period gets over. India visits South Africa in 2010.

Is cricket saturated in terms of ad rates?

No! We believe that the spot rate can keep going up. To give you a parallel, in the US a 30-second spot for the Super Bowl sells for $2.5 million. For us it sounds unbelievable but in the US clients like Budweiser and Microsoft are willing to spend $25 million on one match. They create campaigns just for that event. An India series costs $4 million to sponsor. So there is room to grow.

We sold the India Pakistan series last year for Rs 350,000 for a 10-second spot. I believe that ESPN Star Sports sold the final of the T20 World Cup for Rs 750,000 per 10 seconds. The next India versus Pakistan series could see spots sold for Rs 500,000 per 10 seconds - or even more. Advertisers realise that India cricket is the only way to reach the entire country at one shot. Even the highest rated soap does not reach the entire country. Its primary audience is the Hindi belt.

Which is why the sports broadcasting market is going to see ad revenue growth this year?

We expect the sports broadcast ad market to be in the region of approximately Rs 7 billion this year, up from Rs 4.5 billion a year ago.

Industry estimates Ten Sports' ad revenue to be around Rs 600-700 million this year. Is this true?

I can't comment on our revenue figures.

In terms of rates, how do India cricket series stack up

against each other?


India versus Pakistan would be number one, followed by the series against Australia. A series against South Africa would be third. Clients need India cricket to create a big bang. Also a lot of the ad rates depend on when a series is held. Is it coinciding with the summer season or Diwali?

To what extent did T20 rejuvenate cricket?

It turned the sport upside down. It is certainly worth a lot more from an advertisers perspective than a 50 over ODI. The ratings for the T20 World Cup were double what you got for the India Australia ODI series. There is a lot more viewer retention as it lasts for just three hours. The instant cricket that T20 offers fits in with today's lifestyle.

'IPL and ICL will not get in each other's way. One initiative is from the governing body, while the other is from a private player trying to boost the game's popularity and reach. They can co-exist'

Have ratings gone up for other sports?

Not substantially. There has been some growth though for tennis, soccer. Moto GP has also shown a decent jump. We have gone from maybe 0.2 to 0.4.

And what about ad rates?

We are seeing a surge in football. When we telecast the World Cup in 2002, we got an ad revenue of $2.5 million. We believe ESPN Star Sports got around $8.5 million this World Cup.

The ad revenue you get from a non-India series like Australia versus South Africa is probably about the same as what you make for a season of Uefa Champions League.

How do you view the opportunities for broadcasters to grow other sports in India?

The opportunities are there for other sports to grow. Soccer, hockey, tennis are doing quite well, which we are trying to develop. Having said that, Indian cricket drives the sports broadcasting space. The challenge is to take the other sports on par with India cricket.

We have to figure out how to deliver more TRPs and revenues from these sports. India will evolve from being a one sports nation but it will take time - and a lot of marketing effort from sports broadcasters to push these properties.

Can you offer an example of a non cricket sports event that has grown through nurturing?

A good example of nurturing is the soccer World Cup. The response it got last year surpassed all expectations.

When EPL first started airing in India not many people were familiar with it. It has developed over the years due to sustained coverage. We will be doing the same with our properties including motorsports.

What marketing innovations are being done by Ten Sports to push these events?

We are doing an On Tour innovation. This is a six-month on-air promotion and the sponsors are Tata Sky, Idea and McDonalds. We take four contest winners each month for a different event. We started off in September with WWE in Paris. In October we took them to Kuala Lumpur for the MotoGP. This month is the Uefa Champions League and next month is Sri Lanka Cricket.

In January, we will be featuring South Africa cricket. In February, there will be horse racing in Dubai. And we are marketing them in different ways.

Do you see Olympics becoming bigger in India this time?

I would rather say that the Olympics as an event was bigger in the 1970s and 1980s compared to now. For next year I have heard that ESPN is looking to air it, besides DD. If that happens then the event will get a bigger marketing push that usual. Still the fact that Indian participation in the Olympics as well as performance is limited means that interest will accordingly be limited.

What are the rights you have recently bagged?

We have bought the soccer rights to the Dutch and French leagues. We believe that if we nurture them they can over the next three years reach the status of EPL.

In terms of upcoming rights, the Australian Open tennis Grand Slam rights are currently being bid for. Wimbledon rights come up next year.

There is a trend of sports broadcasters doing long-term deals with a few clients. Is Ten Sports examining this route?

No! We prefer to do yearly deals as we know exactly what is on our calendar. Also if you do a long-term deal, you do not know what the ad rates will be the next year and the year after that. You could be under-selling.

Another issue is that if I say lock in Pepsi for three years, then I exclude Coca-Cola and who knows? Maybe next year Coca Cola ups their marketing budget and launches three new products. I miss out on that action. With long-term deals you run the risk of ticking off companies by blocking them completely off the channel. These companies will then be more than happy to hop on to a rival channel.

How do you see the ICL and IPL faring?

ICL will rock. At the moment there is some uncertainty as it is a new format. But once it starts, it will catch on in a big way. You have established names, good production values, good stadium facilities. There will be Bollywood glamour. So it will be a fun experience for the family.

While it is early for me to say anything about IPL, I don't think that they will get in each other's way. One initiative is from the governing body while the other is from a private player trying to boost the game's popularity and reach. They can co-exist.

After acquiring stake, why did Zee decide to sell ads through Ten Sports for its own sports channel?

We already have a dedicated ad sales team in place. We are selling ICL for them. We are selling it on air while they are selling it on-ground. Sometimes we package some of Zee Sports' properties along with our channel. At other times like for Indian soccer, it is done separately.

It also depends on the client. If say someone like an LG is spending Rs 10 million, he may want to split it between the two channels. So we work out a package. We have products that Zee Sports does not have and vice versa. So it helps us sell better. It is a joint effort in terms of sales.

Are you looking at organising a sports event at a

grassroots level?


Yes! We are working with Zee. We have identified three sports and we are deciding how to go about things. We might create an event from scratch or we might associate with an existing one and take it to another level. Zee is working with soccer. ESPN is working with hockey. We too are looking at a sport.

In terms of other sports, do you see soccer or hockey

becoming a number two sport?


It is difficult to say which will come out on top. Hockey has picked up with our recent win and the whole Chak De spirit. Unfortunately, we are not playing in the Champions Trophy. Hockey has had its ups and downs. In terms of soccer, the Champions League is taking off. Both sports will depend on how India fares at them. But currently, soccer is bigger than hockey.

How is Ten Sports gearing up for new media? And is marketing on the mobile going to go beyond just SMS?

We are planning to do this next year. We are talking with Idea and Reliance in terms of how to take this forward. We are looking for a bigger platform.

You did a film innovation last year where you aired

sports films. Are you planning more of the same?


Absolutely! We are planning to have the next batch soon. It is a question of getting sports movies. We are currently showing a series Simply the Best. Each episode looks at a great sports person like Sir Donald Bradman, Jesse Owens. Mohammed Ali, Sachin Tendulkar.

Is a one-sport channel like a Golf channel economically

viable with new distribution platforms like direct-to-home emerging?


I think that a couple of years down the line it will be. When DTH reaches 5 million homes, you will see niche channels dedicated to topics like cooking, golf, travel and action adventure coming up.

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