News channels go the whole 22 yards

It's the biggest event on television this year and every news channel has spent the past few months working up a lather on how best to milk it. We don't know if our Boys in Blue will do the impossible and bring home the Cup but news channel's 'programming cup of joy overflows'.

This quarter has already seen news channels fighting it out for mindspace with budget programming and now the pitch is laid out for cricket. The kind of viewership ratings and ad revenues the channels will garner may set a trend for the year as well.

Consider this: The World Cup in 2003 saw coverage from just a few news channels operating at the time - Star News, Zee News and Aaj Tak apart from international news channels like CNN and BBC.

It's a changed scenario four years on as English news channels - NDTV 24x7, CNN IBN, Times Now and Headlines Today fight it out. The big guns of the Hindi news space include the likes of Aaj Tak, Star News, NDTV India and Zee News. For CNBC TV18 and consumer channel CNBC Awaaz, it's business as usual with them also sniffing a goldmine.

More importantly though for news channels like Headlines Today and Times Now, special programming woven around these two events could mean a steady flow of loyal viewership over the next three months. They will be hoping that the 'stickiness quotient" continues beyond the World Cup as well. decided to do a quick round up of news channels and see what's on offer and what it means to the news channels themselves.

Programming on most news channels is clearly divided between weekday and weekend sessions lined up for the cricket fan. While weekday news content will focus on daily updates, statistics and numbers crunched in the news room and studios, weekend programming will concentrate on the flavor of cricket, the lighter side of the game, celebrities and loads of entertainment. 


Its cricket mania all the way as news channels pull out all stops in an attempt to grab viewer eyeballs.

Aaj Tak and Headlines Today , channels from the TV Today network have a range of programming on their channels. While World Cup programming may not be new to Aaj Tak, Headlines Today slowly making a mark in the English news space will be looking forward to the World Cup. The channel was not operational during the 2003 World Cup.

Says TV Today CEO G Krishnan, "We have an aggressive coverage plan for the World Cup. Our programming will unfold in phases. The pre world cup phase has special shows profiling cricketers and their preparation for crickets biggest tournament."

"We have also launched a show where we are visiting a different city everyday and giving the fans a platform to express their support for the Indian team. Similarly during the tournament we will look at pre and post match specials to analyze the day's play."

"There is a huge line up of several interactive shows and contests. An interesting initiative was when viewers had to predict the final 15 member squad of the Indian team. It was heartening to see over a one lakh responses where viewers predicted the squad with 100% accuracy. Cricket is a religion in this country and as a news channel we cannot under serve the viewer," he emphasizes.

NDTV Media CEO Raj Nayak is also upbeat about cricket programming on their network channels. The last World Cup saw NDTV give it a miss as it was in a transitional phase between Star and setting up its own offices. But this year the channels have geared up with cricketers, contests and programming in place. Says Nayak, "Programs like Opening Spell, Turning Point, Googly, Pitch Report, Junoon will have extensive analysis pre and post the match on the days of the World Cup matches. 

The World Cup is one of the biggest events in the sporting world this year. Our investment in this property will be in tandem with the importance and grandeur of this event. Our viewers will get the very best of the programming, in and around the World Cup matches on the NDTV network."

Stepping up its programming on World Cup cricket is Times Now. The channel has announced a all new spruced up daily show on sports calledThe Game in its run up to the World Cup early this year. It now has a whole range of cricketing shows collectively called Calypso Countdown.

Says Times Now CEO Sunil Lulla, "Cricket is certainly an important aspect of the news genre. As a channel Times Now has sports programming right through the week, its daily show The Game is the leading sports show among English News channels."

"We will have programming from West Indies and India and reporting on all the matches; keeping viewers informed of the game sentiment as well. In the recent week Greg Chappell, Ian Chappell, Kumar Sangakkara, Monty Panesar along with Sanjay Manjrekar, Charu Sharma and Kiran More have been part of the pre-World cup," he adds.

Applying its philosophy of the 'big story' to cricket as well Lulla adds, "Times Now believes sports is about sporting action, the presentation and the big story of sports which will be live, refreshed and updated right through the World Cup." 

Zee News CEO Harish Doraiswamy says, "We have already started our curtain raisers on the game. One of our shows is called Vishwayudh where we have 4 experts - Zaheer, Vinod, Maninder and Nikhil Chopra- they have all been part of the World Cup at one time and so understand the pressures of the game at that level."

BBC World also has a refreshing set of programmes. Says BBC World Commissioning Editor Narendhra Morar, "BBC World's Sport Today team will be providing news four times each weekday and twice at weekends."

Also in place is the interactive programme My Cricket World Cup. Morar tells us more, "Following the success of the interactive programme My World Cup during the Football World Cup in 2006, BBC World will be launching My Cricket World Cup to run throughout the tournament. A twice-weekly show presented by Adnan Nawaz, it will feature regular cricket fans and armchair commentators from across the world. Those who wish to interact with Adnan can do so live via webcam, email or mobile, giving them a chance to have their say about the tournament, games, teams and players."

While match days will see considerable viewership, the interesting factor this time would be the post match analysis since the matches will start post tea and go well into the night. Most viewers are bound to catch the results and even highlights on various channels the following morning.

Concurs Krishnan, "There will be enough interesting content on the non-match days as well, in terms of match analyses and expert views. Also, since the second innings of all matches will end around 2 am, India time, viewers will look to news channels for the analysis of the parts they would have missed."

Says Nayak, "The NDTV channels had not launched when the last World Cup was held. This is our first World Cup since we launched in April 2003 and we are very excited about it. We will certainly provide all the cricketing action 24/7."

Star News has a wide variety of programming under its umbrella property called Cup Tak but one look at its programming line up and you realize that the focus is on entertainment.

In fact the channel has taken a position which states, 'Cricket will be More than just cricket on Star News.' So what's on offer - well a lot of entertainment!

Jis Desh Mein Bharat Basta Hai, is a travelogue, Choolah Chauka gives the cricket fan a chance to win World Cup tickets and also allow celebrities to send across their messages to Indian players. Lage Raho India is the daily world cup update section following the fortunes of the 'men in blue'.

Cricket + Entertainment

Star News cricket programming, with its strong focus on entertainment, will have Nikita Anand and Suresh Menon bringing in the humour, while sharing screen space with Dilip Vengsarkar, Sandeep Patil and Saba Karim.

Wah Cricket! Has been positioned as Star News' prime cricket property with Sandeep Patil and Saba Karim participating in cricket interviews and coaching camps. Dilip Vengsarkar will host queries from fans on Colonel ka Cut, while bringing in the 'glam' factor is former Miss India Nikita Anand bringing the viewers the daily news segment a la Mandira Bedi on another rival GEC Set Max.

But that not the only show on Star News to woo female audiences who are presumed to be bored by all cricketing talk. The news channel has also tied up with IMG Media to present a special weekend show called Crazy Kiya Re which will feature contests to figure out the World's Sexiest Cricketer and World's Sexiest Cricket Team.

The show will have prominent faces from television, films and the modeling fraternity judging the players in this World Cup. The catch of course is that the parameters have nothing to do with their playing skills. It's all about the 'sex appeal'.

And if its cricket, can gossip and entertainemt be far behind. In a lighter vein, the channel has also roped in Sanjog with all the gossip in a show called Dressing Room Se and comedian Suresh Menon on Silly Point.

If you are wondering what happened to the 'heroes of the past World Cup', well you are bound to catch them on the various news channels doling out their prognosis. So while Krish Srikkanth and Yashpal Sharma are TV 18's cricketing faces, Zee has four cricket experts - Zaheer Khan, Vinod Kambli, Maninder Singh and Nikhil Chopra on board.

TV Today aims to bring alive the memories of '83 World Cup with experts like Kapil Dev, Syed Kirmani, Madan Lal and Arun Lal.

"Whether it's our love for the game or national spirit or both, we at CNN-IBN have gone through great lengths to put together an assembly of innovative, analytical, fun and informative programming for our viewers on the occasion of the World Cup," says CNN-IBN and IBN 7 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai.

"By calling in ex-cricketers as out studio experts, IBN 7 is adding credibility to its special analytical programming devised around the World Cup" added IBN 7 Managing Editor Ashutosh.

Nayak says, "We have extensive plans for the coverage of the World Cup on NDTV India and NDTV 24X7 with some of the biggest names from the world of cricket MS Dhoni, Ajay Jadeja, Imran Khan, Dean Jones and Barry Richards besides specials with Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid."

He further added, "In addition to this coverage of the World Cup matches, we are also offering our viewers a build up to the World Cup. This will include World Cup Special episodes of "India Questions" on NDTV 24X7 and "India Kare Sawaal" on NDTV India which are special one-hr interviews with Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.

Viewers will be treated to a World Cup extravaganza with short programs like Mantra of Cricket, Head to Head, Hain Tayyar Hum, Team ke saath and many more action packed programs. We also have a program titled "Carribean Calling" which will be like a postcard from the West Indies on the soft features related to the venue of the World Cup."

Says Zee's Doraiswamy, "You know cricket and entertainment have always been linked together and while GEC's cash in on it in a big way roping in Bollywood or television and modeling fraternity, news is also going the same way. And I don't see why that should be a problem. Cricket is primarily about entertainment."

"One must understand that bringing people live sport is not news. There is a lot more to the sport and every channel tries to innovate around it. So I don't see a conflict in bringing celebrities and sports together."

Zee News' regional channels Bengali Coubees Ghanta and Marathi Chouvees Tas are also gearing up for cricket , "As for our regional channels , the content and packaging will follow similar guidelines but we would also look at having a Vinod Kambli on Chouvees Tas , the Marathi news channel we launched early this year," he added.

Pitch report

There's live action, analysis, celebrities and entertainment. But if the viewer's are still asking for more well there are loads of contests and live action programming to keep them hooked on to the news channels. But apart from that, this is also turning out to be the perfect time for some news channel branding given all the on ground activities and audience interaction.

TV 18 launched the 'Cheer for India' initiative a specially designed float that will visit pre-determined locations in various cities in a bid to garner support for the Indian team. The floats will carry with them a giant Cricket bat replica Cricket fans and celebrities were encouraged to sign their wishes for Team India. While the Cheer for India caravans were parked at different venues, fans could also share their opinions and wishes to be aired live on the network's various channels.

"Cheer for India campaign is conceptualised, keeping in mind not only the Indian cricket team but also cricket crazy fans all across the country. The gamut of programming surrounding this campaign will provide an opportunity to the fans to come together to celebrate the sprit of cricket", says CNBC-TV18 managing editor Senthil Chengalvarayan.

The 'Cheer for India' campaign grand finale will take place in Mumbai after all caravans across the country come together on 13 March. A musical concert and talk show featuring cricketers such as Krish Srikkanth and Yashpal Sharma and other celebrities is also on the cards. The finale will of course be telecast as a one-hour special 'Cheer for India - the Great Indian Bat Show ', on 16 March, on all four TV18 channels.

Says TV Today's Krishnan, "We have already created a fair amount of buzz around the World Cup with contests and pre-World Cup programming. The contests, in fact have given us overwhelming responses from viewers, indicating interest in our programming."

He also explains why cricket will be a strong channel driver for news this quarter. He says, "From a viewership perspective - cricket is definitely a driver. The strategy is to mount special wrap around programming before and after the matches. For the world cup since the matches will continue till very late at night. The news channels will be a preferred destination to get a quick update in the morning. Thus there will be a fair share of advertising revenue generated around cricket programming. 

As a network we invest money from a brand building and loyalty driver point of view. We are able to drive viewership with our innovative programming and detailed analysis. Thus providing advertisers with a healthy return on their investment on our network."

NDTV's Nayak explains, "We believe in creating compelling content which will drive viewership. We don't link revenues to specific programming."

Says Zee's Doraiswamy, "We'd like to make money, obviously. But as a news channel we have our limitations. For us cricket world cup is and will be about news content."

Net Practice

Since a lot of viewers will be accessing the web for on the ball updates, news channels have also tied up with various cricket websites. Star's is the global official internet partner for the World Cup. It has also created a website

The site will have a feature called Matchcast. This allows viewers to watch live scores, ball-by-ball updates, player profiles, team profiles etc. One interactive feature that the site will have is called Voice Of the World Cup. The contest requires participants to provide commentary to a piece of archived footage which has had its commentary removed.The winners will be judged by a public poll as well as by experts. Two winners will get to go the West Indies for the World Cup.

Times Now had also tied up with to provide exclusive insights by Kumar Sangakkara, Ian Chappell, Greg Chappell and Sanjay Manjrekar. CricInfo and Times Now are jointly producing Calypso Countdown - a run up series to the World Cup.The matches can also be viewed on the website.

NDTV will also be running viewer contests with mobile operators. "Our cricket coverage will also be supported by our own website, which is one of India's leading news websites for cricket score downloads during match season", added Nayak.

Zee's Doraiswamy says, "We have a website called The website will see cricketing greats and present cricketers writing in. has already roped in Steve Waugh who will contribute a regular column during the World Cup.

If it was sport's channels and entertainment channels that cashed in last World Cup, this year the news channels have spared no effort to put together a line up of programmes that promises viewers the best in sports programming. We can't predict how Team India will perform but do watch this space at the end of World Cup to know which news channels actually made the cut and pulled in both - viewers and ratings.

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