Cricket i''Cricket is not just a business plan for Max. It is a distribution driver for the One Alliance' : Rajat Jain - SET India executive vice president

After being absent for over a year on the cricket front, Max is all set to steal the limelight. It has two mouth-watering tournaments back to back. First India take on arch rivals Pakistan and Australia in Holland in August. Then you have the ICC Champions Trophy in September which India has to try and defend.

On the movie front, Max is still in the process of finalising its acquisition deals. The man at the helm of things, business head Rajat Jain, is in transit mode. From August, he joins Disney to head its India operations.'s Ashwin Pinto and Bijoy AK caught up with Jain for what looks like being his final media interview for Max.


Let's talk first about the upcoming cricket. How have you planned to create hype around the Holland Tourney and the Champions Trophy?

In the past couple of years we have showcased cricket in a way which is unique and which has really worked. It has increased ratings for the non-India matches which has thus far been the main issue with cricket in terms of their relevance to the Indian viewer. In the World Cup there were about six India matches and for The Champions Trophy you have a guarantee of two matches involving India.

We created a lot of excitement around the game and transformed it from just pure cricket to cricket entertainment. The challenge that we have now is to take that execution to the next level. I think that from a concept point of view the whole concept of expanding the audience by bringing the family in as well as the entertainment angle to cricket has worked. We are not looking at changing this position.

This time you will be seeing newer things in Extraa Innings. You will be seeing newer talent. There will also be new segments. Technology has come a long way since last year's World Cup. Mobile phone penetration has shot up and we will bring in a heightened sense of interactivity. Our aim is to get the viewer more heavily involved.

What new elements is Max proposing to add in terms of the packaging and presentation of these tournaments? It is in this area where you took the lead in the past.

Apart from what I have mentioned above, in every ICC tournament there is some technological improvement. It could be the incorporation of Hawkeye, new camera angles. From 22 cameras it went up to 25 cameras. The locations are better strategically. So the coverage will be better from the technological point of view.

Mandira (Bedi) and Charu (Sharma) will continue to host Extraa Innings. However, around them the talent and the colours will be different. Our Tiger character will be different and we will create fresh situations around that. We have created a whole new set of animated characters. That is not to say that the older set is not good.

It is fantastic but in television you need to constantly innovate by creating new things. The creative will be different and that is something we are still discussing and working on. The commentators, be it Tony Greig or Ian Chappell, will not change. The non-ESPN contracted people will definitely be there.

In the analysis section we will rope in people from the cricket, film and journalism fraternities, We will also be doing roundtable events before and after The Champions Trophy. This will also have people from the PR, advertising fields voicing their opinions. 15 –20 top-notch people will sit together and brainstorm about what has happened in the past and how we should take things forward.

As a conceptual point you will see more humour creeping into our coverage. We have reached the top and this is our way of going even further. Since The Holland Tourney and Champions Trophy are near each other we are looking at them as one unit. The next big push will come in the next Champions Trophy and the with the West Indies World Cup in 2007.

You mentioned mobile. Any specifics on that?

After the last World Cup we launched our own platform 2525. This is being used for Jassi, Max’s Maha Movie package. Last time we had Prediktaa which was a tie-up with Indiatimes’ 8888. Now we will be doing our own Max Game on our platform. 2525 also has link ups with all the mobile phone operators in the country.

This will give us a new revenue sharing possibility. Mobile phone penetration is 45 million. This will give us an opportunity to build up our brands further.

Last time it was cricket centric quizzing. This time since cricket appeals to a much larger segment, our contests will be very generic. Your mother, my wife, anybody can participate. It is not going to be about how many centuries someone will score in a tournament. It will be simpler. We are not a sports channel that digs deep down into the definition of sport. We are into stretching the concept wider so that the sponsors, advertisers, the ICC get value. Sports channels which keep digging deeper and deeper into a sport are not expanding the viewership base.

What major promotional and marketing activities are in the pipeline in the next couple of months?

There is a promotional campaign being worked upon. We will hit the air and ground in August. For the Holland trophy we will be doing a campaign from the third week of July. The catch line is cricket fever is back on Max. This will be the brand promotion of cricket under the aegis Deewana Bana De.

It is giving the viewer the feel of things to come. After all we have been absent in terms of cricket for a year and a half. It has just been movies and more movies. The passion of cricket whether it is done through glamour, statement or a personality will be gotten through in the campaign.

The day before the Holland Tourney kicks off you will see hoardings and print insertions. There will also be on air contests where the winners will be taken to Holland or England as guests of Max to see the matches. There will also be local level promotions with the media fraternity.

Of course you don’t need to promote cricket very much. Ten Sports proved it with the India Pakistan series. We will spend money not promoting the event per se but promoting cricket as a generic property on Max and the impact of cricket viewing on Max’s slogan Deewana Bana De.

The aim is that post cricket the value of Deewana Bana De continues. I will not spend money saying see India play Pakistan tomorrow. The media will in any case write lots about it. For me, the money spent will be to build Max’s brand. It is not about cricket as a sport. It is about how cricket is a tent pole in my strategy to build the Max brand. Champions Trophy is my next tent pole. Then in December the next tent pole will be either a big movie or an event.

What plans do you have as far as using brand ambassador Kapil Dev is concerned?

He will definitely be there as far as the whole cricketing feature is concerned. He will be doing different things this Time. Kapil has a great passion for coaching. So you will Kapil on television talking to kids and telling them what to do.

This will be in the context of creating value for Extraa Innings. He will also be there on the live days. He will provide insights as an analytical celebrity. He will not be doing commentary as he has always maintained that he is not a commentator.

His involvement will be on the ground to build up awareness. Mandira Gully Cricket is currently on. Kapil will go to a couple of places to support this initiative.

The roles seem to have reversed. Mandira seems to be the peg on which Kapil is hanging...

No! Kapil is not hanging on Gully Cricket. He is hanging on his own. The last campaign where we spent Rs 20-30 million was entirely about Kapil. There was no Mandira. In the lead up to the Champions Trophy Kapil will feature in promos.

"We are not a sports channel that digs deep down into the definition of sport. We are into stretching the

concept wider so that the sponsors,

advertisers, ICC get value"

But today in the media all you hear about is Mandira doing this and Mandira doing that?

It depends on what activity is on. Now it is Mandira Gully Cricket. In Lucknow there is a huge buzz around the event. Last week I was in Chandigarh and Ludhiana there was huge media coverage on Mandira Gully Cricket. It is not Mandira as a celebrity which is the story. Mandira is a way to get you mileage. The story is about getting women out of their houses and participate in cricket.

Last year we got some of them to watch cricket. Now we are talking it to the next level by getting them to be actively involved in the game. In Ludhiana in the 42 degree heat there were girls and women out there in the parks wanting to play cricket with Mandira. For them it is about getting a few minutes of fame. At the end of the day the whole multiplier effect of the media is a promotion. Last time we had played Gully Cricket with Kapil. This is just a sequel.

Are you planning any more cricket based shows that will combine the spectacle with Bollywood as had been done a couple of years ago?

No! The way for us to promote cricket is not serious half an hour shows. Also we are a back to back Hindi movie channel. Anything that you do to break the whole pattern is not great for the movie business. Max in the last three out of four months has been the number one movie channel in overall GRPs, ratings.

We are pretty much at the top and we don’t want to lose that position. We will be promoting cricket through high frequency, short duration, entertaining and interesting fillers, interstitials and vignettes. These will be of the nature of Cricket Dil Se or Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin or Khiladi Number One. This time we are trying to get more human interest stuff from cricketers and their families. We are trying to do something for the sponsors on the channel, which gives them mileage. ESPN has a half hour cricket show for 52 weeks. For me, to create awareness about that will take 13 weeks. We had done a show Cricket Masala that was a flop.

Moving away from the two tourneys, bidding for India cricket rights for the next four years opens up this month.

Yuo feel The Rs 700 crore (Rs 7 billion) figure for the rights which the media has been throwing around is high. Why do you say that?

Anything is possible. It depends on supply and demand. Last time it was roughly Rs 270 crores. I really do not think that the price has gone up three times. The price would be reasonable unless of course you have one party who is determined to have the property at all costs. Cricket though is not just a business plan for Max. It is a distribution driver for the One Alliance. There is a huge image rub off that cricket has given us.

People know what we can do with cricket. There are two ways to look at India cricket rights. One is what is the market? Last time there were two players in the fray. This time there might be six players. Some will be driven by the instinct to survive. Some will want to add to their coffers while others will be driven by no logic. It will be up to me to take call when I know the price, be it $150 million or $ 200 million.

I will have to factor in whether Cas will happen or not and whether pay per view will happen in the next five years. It is not that if the price reaches $ 200 million I will not bid. Of course everybody will bid. You see that you will have a certain number of games over a five year period. You can convert that into revenues, distribution push. For me the value may be X, for ESPN the value may be Y while for Ten Sports the value may be Z. Some may it as a loss leader while others may see it as a profit making mechanism.

In view of the controversy that engulfed Ten Sports when India toured Pakistan it would seem most unlikely that the India cricket rights would go to a pay channel. And since the argument last time was that everyone should be able to see it, wouldn't a Sahara be on a stronger wicket?

There is no ruling on that. I think that the rights will also go to a private broadcaster. From a national perspective DD would definitely like to be in the game. Terrestrially it will probably go to DD. Everybody will want to see it. In India there are 45 million cable and satellite homes.

There will likely be a split between terrestrial rights and C&S rights. The problem for a Sahara for instance, though it is free to air, is that there are 40 million homes that do not have it. So what will happen there? How will Sahara show it to a chap in a Jabalpur village who has no access to cable?

Apart from India cricket in the near future are there any other cricket properties up for grabs that you would be interested in?

There are no others. All the properties have been distributed. We do look at all the boards but all have been taken up. Five to six are with ESPN Star Sports.

A couple are with Ten Sports. The chance is that some boards come together and create a tournament as what was done for the Holland tourney. If it should happen every year then it will obviously become a hot property to go for.

What time frame has been set for recouping the massive investment made in ICC cricket?

We are hopeful that it will happen over the investment period, which is till 2007. We are aiming to do more than just recoup because we have to do something for the company’s shareholders.

The Indian cricket team is fortunately doing well. The passion for the game is growing which is being reflected in the prices that advertisers are willing to pay.

What are the major changes that have taken place in the Indian sports broadcasting sphere since you launched?

Well, since we launched, there's been one major change in the Indian sports broadcasting sphere. Thanks to Max, viewers don’t have to just watch a seven hour vanilla telecast of live cricket, but can look forward to an extended and far more engrossing experience of total cricket entertainment.

That apart, the competition has been emulating our innovations and even our passion statement. Otherwise, there is yet to be another sport apart from Cricket than can command any semblance of a respectable viewership in India. So no major change there.

What changes can we expect in the near future?

I guess in the foreseeable but not so near future, DTH will revolutionise sports broadcasting, as directly paying smaller numbers of viewers of non-Cricket sporting action will make the acquisition of those sports more viable by broadcasters.

To what extent has the concept of marketing a television sports event changed?

Considerably. Earlier, it was only through on-air promos and some print ads and a bit of outdoor like hoardings or busbacks etc. But when Max acquired all the limited overs ICC Cricket all the way till 2007, we signed up Kapil Dev as Brand Ambassador, and took him to several cities across the length and breadth of India.

We started the trend of having a sports (read Cricket!) luminary as Brand Ambassador, and other channels (read ESPN Star Sports) followed suit. We pioneered the innovative Gully Cricket-type ground activities, and also took Kapil Dev to the homes of our viewers. And in fact, the entire focus, as far as Max was concerned shifted to the entertainment potential of Cricket for the female viewers.

We changed from the earlier paradigm of positioning cricket as just live cricket action for the frenzied male cricket buff.

Would Max be looking at airing other sports besides cricket? This would expand the brand identity beyond the three pillars of cricket, movies and events.

First, one correction: We have two pillars: Movies and Events. Events for us included Cricket, which, too, we treat as an event. We wouldn’t mind airing other sports, but that would depend upon finding something to fit in with the channel philosophy of Deewana Bana De - of passion.

Would a channel dedicated to just one sport work in India?

Name ONE other sport apart from cricket that is a bigger passion in the country than Hindi Movies are?

Even after India won so many hockey tournaments, there still is not strong viewership for hockey at all. What other sport apart from cricket in India can match up to even a tenth of cricket's viewership potential or fan following?

We at Max believe in acquiring properties that match up to our passion positioning of Deewana Bana De. And in Movies and Mega events like Cricket, we have both.

Territory wise how much would the rights for The Champions Trophy go for in participating countries like Australia and South Africa compared with us?

It would be much less elsewhere. Firstly India drives the business of cricket. 80-85 per cent of the revenue comes from here. In addition in those countries cricket is competing with a whole lot of other sports. You have soccer, rugby which are equally if not more popular.

In India apart from cricket, we do not have a presence in any other sport. So there is a single minded focus on the sport. The ICC is now struggling to build up interest in cricket in countries like the US. There cricket is non existent but they are still looking at organising tournaments there.

Have sponsors already been signed up for the two


Last time in The Champions Trophy, the Extraa Innings segment was not attractive. People did not buy it. In the World Cup it sold because the 2002 Sri Lanka tournament did well. This time it is already gone and we are still two and a half months away. The Champions Trophy has sold out.

Maruti and Samsung are primary sponsors of the Champions Trophy. Perfetti, Pepsi, Hero Honda, LG, BPCL and Hutch are the associate sponsors.

The Holland Tourney will be sold separately (title sponsor Videocon). This will give other companies a chance. Cricket’s ad pie has expanded over the past couple of years.

Coming to movies, have you completed your major

acquisitions for the year? Which are the challenges you face these days when it comes acquiring good movies?

Some of the big movies Max has acquired this year include Koi Mil Gaya, Tere Naam, Baaghban, Gangajal and Calcutta Mail. Shhhh... deal is going to be completed soon. A couple of other small movies are also in the pipeline. Mein Hum Na, Yuva, Kal Ho Na Ho are all remaining. We won't be signing any crucial deal in the next two months.

Movie acquisition is a continuous process. By the end of the year we may be looking to buy 30 - 40 films or we may have bought only 4 or 5 films. There is not enough quality to buy these days. Out of 120-130 films released every year, ten would be good. Four broadcasters are fighting for movies and this triggers a price rise. Our challenge lies in getting quality film content. We have to go a long way to get that 30-40 good films not in terms of budget I can provide but in terms of content.

What are the innovative ways in which you propose to present your movie titles?

After innovating with single ad breaks, we are now showing Hollywood films dubbed in Hindi, which is our innovation for this quarter. You can expect many more in the days to come.

Recently, at a broadcast seminar it was pointed out that it took seven hours for Baghbhan to finish on Max. In light of the fact that you get so many ads a member of a consumer organisation expressed the opinion that viewers should only pay the carriage fee. The reasoning is that the viewer should not have to pay twice for ads and also for content. Would you care to reply to this?

That figure is exaggerated. Trai has also asked us to provide figures for this. Bagbhan ran for 181 minutes. We had 70 minutes of ads, fillers and interstitials. We do run a lot of promos for the channel and not just one ad after another.

Abroad what platforms are you looking to join?

We are looking to join Pehla in the Middle East and Europe. This is for Max International. We have plans for taking it to the US and South Africa. In the US, Max will be part of the new carriage understanding with Echostar in the next couple of months. Max will go abroad wherever Sony is. Sony is available on Multichoice in South Africa, on Astro in Malaysia.

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