Media professionals see Zee's cricket rights win in positive light

MUMBAI: The media fraternity has reacted positively to Zee Telefilms' coup yesterday in winning the telecast rights for international tourneys organised by the Board for Cricket Control in India (BCCI). decided to look at how the industry had received the news and the implications thereof. Was it a good buy? What will it mean for the Zee network? Has Subhash Chandra finally arrived after some serious hibernation? Does ESPN Star Sports have a case in crying foul saying that justice was not done? Is it a case of sour grapes or are ESS' accusations credible?



This is what the key industry players had to say:

Starcom MD (west and south) Ravi Kiran says, "I am happy for them. I have been hearing about Zee's commitment to develop domestic cricket and as an agency which is very upbeat about the power of sports, we believe that's a very positive sign. Zee getting the BCCI rights reflects the democratisation of sports broadcast in India, now that there are four serious players in the business. Some people have a raised a concern on Zee's technical expertise in producing and packaging cricket; but in our view, there is no dearth of qualified technical vendors whom Zee can hire."

Also, Relay Worldwide (the Sports Practice of the Starcom Media Vest Group based in Mumbai) general manager Chetan Madaya said, "If Zee carries the same vision on valuing sport long-term into delivering world class sporting entertainment to its viewers; it has a great opportunity to establish itself as a premier broadcasting company globally. The challenge is to build the right team, invest for the long-term and think unconventionally. We see multiple revenue streams for Zee and the upsides from declared subscriptions going up can be huge, whether through implementation of conditional access system (CAS) or simply from a market evolution stand-point."



Spatial Access managing partner Meenakshi Madhwani opined, "This is definitely a big breakthrough for Zee. It will mean more eyeballs and a ground for accelerating sampling. It's a straightforward win for Zee as they were the highest bidders. As for ESS claiming expertise in the cricket arena; ground production has never been done by channels. Even ESS outsources their production to the specialists. Also, everybody thought Max would not do a good job, while there is adequate proof and more of how well Max has handled their bet on cricket. It's non-issue in my opinion."

The Media Edge (TME) president Divya Gupta points out that while it was a big investment on Zee's behalf; if packaged and marketed well it is a good buy for them. Gupta jots down the strategic decisions that Zee will have to take in order to maximise it's ROIs -- a) Ad sales in India, both on satellite and terrestrial: Though cricket does command a premium, the premium cannot be inelastic. This coupled with the fact that cricket ratings are beginning to erode further limits the sale price. b) subscription revenue, and c) sale of international telecast rights. "This kind of serious investment definitely projects Zee as a long term player, both to media and the stock market. Media buyers would continue to evaluate each of the Zee offerings based on their performance," says Gupta.

NDTV Media chief executive Raj Nayak had this to say, "It does not come a surprise to me at all; after all they were the original highest bidders when the tenders were opened. In fact, I would have been surprised if they had not got it." Speaking on whether he thinks it was a good buy on Zee's part, Nayak offers, "This will give Zee a big boost to drive their overall business from a network point of view and will strengthen their position. Zee will be able to leverage this to drive their international distribution as well, besides also raking in revenue by selling telecast rights to broadcasters in other cricket playing nations."

Further talking about ESS, Nayak agrees that the channel has done a good job telecasting cricket, but at the same time, he says that, it does not mean that others cannot compete and do better.



Group M South Asia CEO Ashutosh Srivastav says, "ESS has a lot of expertise but Zee has also done their homework well. Both are good contenders in terms of backing, infrastructure and production means. Also, if Zee is looking at anchoring their whole network, this will be a good means to do so."

Euro RSCG CEO Ishan Raina said, "Cricket has moved to a different level and nobody really knows where the bar can be set." Questioning further as to whether Zee was the deserving winner and whether they have the capacity to pull through Raina adds, "Any channel deserves it. It's not about expertise, it's how they build around it. This is definitely a shot for a turnaround. Zee's at a stage when it needs to make some big bets."

While remaining noncommittal about ESS crying foul, Madison Communications CMD Sam Balsara says, "Zee has a lot more to gain from it than just advertising income. That is what makes it an attractive proposition for them."

On the other hand, FCB Ulka executive director and Lodestar Media chief executive Shashi Sinha says, "Great thing Zee has got the rights. This will be the driver for the channel."

The media frat has not given much credence to ESS' charges so the courts remain the sports broadcaster's last avenue of recourse.

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