Twenty20 injects new life into sports broadcast

Though it had cricket, Neo Sports also found the going tough. Its distribution deal with Star fell through. This cost it crores of rupees in terms of ad revenue not to mention the fact that the payments that were contractually due to Neo were delayed - or never arrived. It set up its own distribution team headed by Arun Poddar. But without branding in the market monies it got would have been affected.

On the advertising front Neo Sports CEO Shashi Kalathil says that the fact that DD bid heavily to do its own marketing for the Pakistan series proved to be a boon. It added Rs. 180 million its kitty, claims Kalathil.

Non Encryption: There is no respite for sports broadcasters on this issue. Sports feed to DD will not to be encrypted for four to five years. This will impact all the players, more so Neo Sports since it holds the India rights.

In terms of other sports ESS is re-jigging its Premier Hockey League (PHL) initiative. ESPN had to be careful and innovate the strategy this year since there are a lesser number of teams - this being the Olympic selection year and most top international players being busy - and so the duration of the tourney is also shorter. The media fraternity though, feels that PHL is still to attain some sort of sizeable recognition even though ESS has been doing it for the past few years.

Mallya brings home an F1 Team: The biggest non cricket event though was news that Vijay Mallya bought the Dutch F1 team Spyker Ferrari. It was then renamed Force 1 India. This news coupled with the fact that India will hold an F1 event a few years down the road is expected to give a boost to motor racing in the country in a big way.

The Advertising Scene

Information available with indicates that the sports genre earned around Rs. 7.5 billion this year. ESS made around Rs. 2.2 billion. Ten Sports and Zee Sports combined made around Rs. 700 million. Sony made Rs 3 billion.

Sinha says that the biggest learning is that everything depends on performance. "When India does well clients get a very healthy return. But when they do not it can be disastrous which is what happened with the World Cup. Hundreds of crores were lost by clients. T20 was a success more due to India's performance in the form of the game as opposed to the format itself."

"Had India fared poorly in the T20 World Cup also the mood would have been very different. Some fringe clients who occasionally invest in cricket got out after the World Cup experience. India's failure to quality for the Super Eight is something that will haunt some clients and media planners for a long while. The premiums paid were so high that it was impossible for anybody to prepare for what was to follow."

And what about talks of accountability? Sinha notes that it is practically difficult apart from maybe a couple of big clients to do this. Venkateish maintains that ESS did not fall into this trap. "After all clients who get involved know that there are ups and downs. If the ratings for a tournament are great we do not ask those who have already signed on to pay more. So why should we take less?"

Set India executive VP Rohit Gupta adds that for clients like Pepsi it balances out in the long term. "The 2003 World Cup was a bonanza. Yes the 2007 World Cup was bad but then things turned for the better. Most clients who get involved understand this. They are in for the long haul. In addition for each category there are several companies vying for a spot. So in telecom if Reliance for instance pulls out of cricket there will always be an Idea or Vodafone to step in."

It is pertinent to note that clients who kept the faith and got in early for the England series and especially the T20 World Cup got a terrific bang for their buck. After all the net effect of the World Cup debacle was that clients were able to negotiate better rates for the events that immediately followed.

In conclusion, what both IPL and ICL bring to the Twenty20 table is that it is all to the good for the stakeholders - because it derisks cricket.

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