Highlights of the year 2002

Celebrities money power and last-minute deals ruled the show

* The year 2002 witnessed the television debut of the greatest Indian cricketer of all times - or should we say 'brand'- Sachin Tendulkar! But, mercilessly, it pitted him against another sporting legend, Kapil Dev, and left both of them vying for top honours in the TVR viewership battles.

* Viewers witnessed a strange phenomenon wherein cricket purists and TV critics were left 'tearing their hair' in frustration at the antics of 'cricketing' VJ Ruby Bhatia and her cohorts. World Cup 2003 will witness the resurfacing of Charu (Sharma)'s angels (Mandira Bedi, Maria Goretti and Sandhya Mridul). In fact, an event management company actually created an entire gamut of animated characters, spoofs on Bollywood, cricket interstitials, video travelogues accompany stars for (hold your breath) a cricket tournament!

* The all-powerful game of 'cricket' actually hit 'soaps' for a 'six' on the vierwership front. The cricket matches and programmes revolving around them grabbed the top honours and even beat television soaps in the bargain. There were also claims that female viewership of cricket matches grew by a stupendous 44 per cent!

* Competitive bidding reached its peak when a channel bagged the cricket rights by paying an amount that was perhaps 7 to12 times more than it offered in 1999. Also, the fact remained that there were only three bidders in the 2002 fray as compared to five or six serious players in 1999!

* The national broadcaster even complained to 'the third umpire', the Indian Government about the 'unsporting' behaviour of private channels! It requested the Government to frame laws that would force all the satellite channels to compulsorily share the feed of significant sports events with the Government-owned broadcaster in national interest.

* Tired of battling with the cable operators, television channels did not shy away from screening the World Cup soccer matches on giant screens in Indian theatres and using traveling vans.

* Controversies dogged the telecasts of both the World Cup Soccer 2002 and The Asian Games 2002 and irate viewers were not sure of being able to watch these sporting spectacles till the nth hour. Eventually, both of them did leave their mark on cricket-crazy India!

* The end of the year also witnessed the birth of a new version of the limited-over game that could be ideally suited for TV viewers. The Super Max International game had the batsmen blasting away in ten overs and teams played two innings each in just three and a half hours.

* The sport of cricket claims around 10 percent of the C&S advertising revenue but the sports channels made an effort to promote different sporting spectacles such as soccer, tennis, wrestling, boxing and even horseracing.

When Viewership ratings went for a toss

* The India-England tie on 22 September 2002 during the Champions Trophy would help Max to rank number one in the ratings stake with a TRP of 11.83 beating Kyunkii…(10.2) and Kahaani (10.19)!

* Twelve cricket-based shows revolving around the matches registered their presence amongst the top 100 programmes in the C & S households. MAX in fact bagged four of the top ten spots in the all-India C&S 4+ category surveyed by TAM, a feat unachieved by the channel thus far!

* ESPN-Star Sports, ESS, claimed that the India-West Indies test series saw viewership ratings go as high as 10.29 during the second test match. The final hour of the NatWest finals on ESPN thus created a record for the most watched television programme this year across all channels by registering an average of 14.7 TVR for all C&S homes, 4 + category, an official release stated, quoting TAM Media Research data. During the nail-biting finish the target group (Male, 15+, SEC ABC, all India) registered a record TVR of 22.16, the highest for any sports broadcast across C&S homes for the last two years.

When Court rulings controlled Distribution

* Although it had substantial bargaining power, Ten Sports was unable to convince the cartel of cable-operators to dish out a subscription rate of Rs 12. Armed with a Delhi High Court restraining order, Ten Sports clamped down on those cable operators who were illegally beaming signals. The ensuing major controversy was not sorted out till the last moment and led to protests irate soccer fans and the unflinching cable operators.

* Stung by rights holders like Taj Sports not willing to play ball, Prasar Bharati decided to appeal to the Indian government. It sought a "level playing field" in the name of larger interest of the viewing Indian public.

* DD Sports extracted a short-lived injunction from the Delhi High Court to prevent ESS from airing a daily highlights package of the India-West Indies cricket series. It also switched off its feed to Hathway Cable and Datacom in Mumbai and some parts of Maharashtra. The reason being that the Star India-backed MSO's refusal to accept DD Sports' subscription price hike from Rs 7.15 to Rs 8.95.

* Prasar Bharati also ran into a roadblock with KK Modi company Modi Entertainment Network (MEN) on the issue of converting national broadcaster Doordarshan's DD Sports channel into a free to air channel from the existing pay mode. MEN had gone to court over reported remarks on DD Sports to be converted into a FTA channel and got a stay on any such thing happening.

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