ESPN Star Sports eyes Rs 1.6 bn ad rev from Indo-Pak series

MUMBAI: Sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports is playing hard ball with advertisers for the blockbuster India-Pakistan series comprising 3 ODIs and two T20s.

The sportscaster has set high ad rates for the high-profile series hoping to suck in as much ad revenue as it can. The series kicks off on 25 December.

According to industry sources, the broadcaster is asking for Rs 800,000 per 10 second spot for the ODIs while the T20s have been priced at mind-boggling Rs 900,000-1 million.

In comparison, the going rate for an India-England series is about Rs 275,000-300,000 per spot for ODIs and Rs 450,000 for the T20s, according to media buyers.

An ODI match typically has 5,000-5,500 seconds of FCT, out of which each sponsor gets about 240-360 seconds. In contrast, a T20 match has 2,000-2,200 seconds wherein a sponsor gets 120-180 seconds.

ESS is eyeing eight sponsors including two co-presenting and six associate sponsors. It has set an ambitious target of Rs 1.6 billion ad revenue from the series.

ESPN Software India MD Aloke Malik said it has already got one sponsor on board for the series which will be held from 25 December to 6 January.

"We are looking at two co-presenting and six associate sponsors. We have just gone to the market with it and have got one sponsor," Malik told without revealing the name of the sponsor.

The steep rates have clearly not gone down well with the advertisers who are questioning the basis on which the rates have been hiked coming as it is in the wake of a subdued ad market.

Lodestar UM COO Anamika Mehta said, "The ad rates for the series are inflated because of the hype around the series. The entry price is too steep and it‘s not really easy to spend that kind of money even on an India-Pakistan series. In any case, we had a packed cricket calendar this year."

While acknowledging that an India-Pakistan series will deliver high ratings compared to any other series, Mehta said the price point is too steep to take the bait. Lodestar‘s client Tata DoCoMo had signed a deal with ESS for the entire cricket season.

"Although an India-Pakistan encounter delivers high viewership, beyond a point the ratings won‘t increase. At that price point we can as well buy other cricket properties," Mehta reasoned.

A top media buying executive from Mindshare questioned the justification behind the ad rate hike while conceding that an India-Pakistan series is a lucrative property to buy for any advertiser.

“An India-Pakistan series is a premium property but it cannot be just doubled. There has to be some justification for this kind of an ad rate. A couple of our clients are interested in the series but this is not the price that we are willing to pay,” the official said requesting anonymity.

The executive said that ESS can expect a premium of 25 to 50 per cent maximum on the prevailing prices. But anything above that is obnoxious, he added.

A media buying executive of another agency wondered which advertiser would spend the kind of money that ESS is asking for. “The ad market is not buoyant as big spenders of cricket like telecom are not spending much. The insurance sector is dead, colas also spend mostly during summer and MNCs have already closed their yearly budgets. So the question is who has the appetite to spend this kind of money,” the executive questioned.

The negative mood notwithstanding, the sports broadcaster remains optimistic about the prospects of the series which is happening after almost half a decade. The two countries last played a series in 2007.

A senior ESS official asserted that the company was in the process of finalising deals and by next week it would be able stitch together a few of them.

“The media buyers can say whatever they want to, but we are confident of achieving our targets. We are in negotiations with advertisers and will hopefully finalise few deals by next week,” the official said.

The official said that apart from big spenders they would also have about 20-30 per cent of first time advertisers who are willing to pump in money for the big bang series.

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