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ESPN Star Sports targets Rs 2 bn from India-England series

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MUMBAI: Sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS) is eyeing ad revenue of Rs 2 billion from the India-England series.

The series, involving four Tests, five ODIs and two T20s, has been billed as "revenge" series by ESS hoping to cash in on the rivalry that will help it attract more eyeballs and the moolah as well.

Team India had faced severe drubbing when it had toured England last year. The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team had to face a 4-0 whitewash in Tests while it had lost the 5-match ODI series by 3-0 by managing to tie one match. The Men in Blue had also lost the lone T20 match.

The sports broadcaster is banking on the Indian team’s track record of doing well in home conditions to deliver good viewership.

ESS is broadcasting the series as part of an understanding with sister concern and BCCI media rights partner Star India, which had acquired the BCCI rights for a whopping Rs 38.51 billion till 2018.

"We have sold out ad inventory for Test matches. Now we are focussing on ODIs and T20 matches," ESPN Software India executive vice president and head of ad sales Sanjay Kailash tells Indiantelevision.com.

He evaded questions about ad revenue target set by the broadcaster. “We don’t share financial numbers,” Kailash said.

However, The Exchange Principal Partner Jai Lala feels that the sportscaster will have to settle for ad revenue between Rs 1.5 to Rs 1.75 billion. "I think Rs 2 billion is too high. They should do around Rs 1.5 to 1.75 billion," Lala said.

Kailash feels that the Test series has done well as far as advertisement is concerned considering the fact that it comes after Diwali, a period when most of the advertisers exhaust a large chunk of their ad spends.

"Considering that the Test series is coming after Diwali there were apprehensions as to what kind of response it will get. However, we have managed to rope in eight sponsors for the Test series," he added.

The eight sponsors for the Test matches include Tata DoCoMo and Havells as joint-presenting sponsors while Maruti Suzuki, Samsung, Perfetti, Nokia, ITC and Microsoft are associate sponsors.

Out of the eight sponsors, Nokia, Havells, Maruti Suzuki and Tata DoCoMo had signed deals for the entire cricket season till the Australia series in February next year. According to a report, ESS has already mopped up Rs 2.8 billion from the four ad deals.

Lala feels that the broadcaster’s decision to do advertising deals for the entire season has helped it de-risk itself from volatility.

The News Corp-owned broadcaster has already sold an estimated 50-60 per cent of the inventory for the T20 and ODI matches that will take place in January after the India-Pakistan series that is scheduled to take place from 25 December to 6 January.

The sportscaster is yet to close a deal for the upcoming India-Pakistan series, which is being sold separately and is not part of the deal done for the entire cricket season.

“The demand for T20s and ODIs will start building up after the first week of December. We already have four on board for the entire season,” Kailash asserted.

While Kailash refused to talk about numbers, Lala said that the sportscaster had sold ad inventory at Rs 60,000 per 10 second for Tests. For ODIs, ESS was looking at Rs 300,000 and for T20s the broadcaster was eyeing Rs 450,000.

Kailash also emphasised that ESS wants to attract more viewers towards Test cricket. A step in that direction was the sportscaster’s decision to have a dedicated Hindi feed on Star Cricket which will run parallel to English commentary on Star Sports.

"We want to attract more and more viewers to grow the franchise of Cricket. The idea is to broad base the sport even more and add more people to watching cricket and monetise it," he noted.

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