Television

'We will breakeven after the third year' : Fraser Castellino- Emerging Media CEO

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 The Indian Premier League (IPL), which kicks off next month, has brought in $2 billion into the Twenty20 format over a 10-year period, involving big corporates like Reliance Industries and Bollywood Badshah Shah Rukh Khan.

Emerging Media, which has two other shareholders in Sporting Investment Group and Lachlan Murdoch, has bought the Jaipur team franchise for $67 million and is hoping to rake in profits after the third year.

Indiantelevision.com's Ashwin Pinto caught up with Emerging Media CEO Fraser Castellino to find out about his plans for the team and the impact IPL will have on the game.

Excerpts:

What prompted Emerging Media to be involved with the IPL?

We have been in the sports business since 2005. Our first venture into cricket was when we bought the management rights for the Leicestershire County Cricket Club. Then we did an international T20 tournament that people today call the Champions Tournament.

We came into India in 2006 and launched the reality show Cricket Star based on the T20 format. We are looking for the next Indian superstar. We saw IPL as a big opportunity as we also have experience in running clubs.

What is the IPL trying to achieve?

The IPL is BCCI's attempt to bring in funds and get corporates involved with the development of cricket. The Board is trying to improve the infrastructure and facilities available to players who participate at a domestic level.

By whipping up support for city-based league teams, the BCCI is also trying to bring new fans into the stadiums.

The tradition of supporting a regional team is not present in India. Do you feel that this will be a hindrance in terms of the IPL taking off?

I don't think that there is a hindrance. Everything about the IPL represents an opportunity to grow the game. The challenge particularly for us is to create a fan base that supports the Rajasthan Royals.

Another issue is that the BCCI wants the IPL to be for India what EPL is for English soccer. At the same time, the players are with EPL for several months each year and there is no conflict with an international schedule. How will IPL manage to do this?

One of the challenges franchisees face is taking the IPL team that participates in the tournament for 45 days and stretching it across the year. The international calendar is packed. We are working with the IPL Governing Council to see how the tenure can be extended. We have a squad of 22 players. While all may not always be available, we need 11 players at any given point in time. We are looking to take the Rajasthan Royals to play in other countries including Australia and England.

Having bought the Jaipur franchise for $67 million, what breakeven period is Emerging Media looking at from IPL?

We will be investing $12 million in the first year which includes the payout for the team franchise, player costs, marketing, etc. Our assumption is that the business will breakeven after the third year. If IPL picks up, the breakeven can happen before that.

How much will Emerging Media spend towards marketing?

We will spend close to $2-3 million on this. A 360-degree campaign will break shortly. O&M has put this together. There will be a TVC, radio spots and outdoor activities. There will also be a school, college and mall activation campaign. This will happen in Jaipur, Delhi NCR, and in Gujarat.

What brief was given to the agency?

The brief is that the campaign must appeal to people at a local level. It must make people want to be supporters of Rajasthan Royals. It must inspire people to either switch on the television or come to the stadium.

Have you tied up revenue deals?

We are in advanced talks with companies for sponsorship deals. We also have merchandising and licensing activities. Besides, there are central revenue streams including ad and broadcast rights.

Is there any chance that Emerging Media might sell a stake in the IPL team?

Not in the first year. We might sell a stake later if we want to inject fresh capital into the company.

'One of the challenges franchisees face is taking the IPL team that participates in the tournament for 45 days and stretching it across the year'

What is the strategy you followed in selecting your team?

Our strategy was clear. We knew that there would be at least two auctions. The first auction had the stars. We knew that there was also a lot of talent that was not a part of that auction.

During the first auction, we picked players and also set price points at which we felt that they had good value for us. If they exceeded these price points, we let them pass.

We did our research, and went after certain players. Now when you look at my team, they are at least as good as the others if not better. And we have spent $3.5 million while the others have burnt $5 million.

Are performance and marketability of players of equal importance?

Performance is more important. You can have glamour and entertainment, but at the end of the day we are here to win matches. Marketability has its place but it is not the primary determining factor for us.

Could you talk about the branding of the team and how your star player Shane Warne will be used?

When we selected Jaipur, we were clear that we wanted to be in the state of kings. The name "Rajasthan Royals" reflects the characteristics of that state.

Shane Warne was a strategic choice that many people do not understand. He has an incredible record in county cricket. When we signed him as both captain and coach, other teams who have specialist coaches were surprised. Specialist coaches are fine but Warne transformed the fortunes of Hampshire in county cricket. He took them from being a non-performer to a team to be reckoned with.

The IPL is about youth and developing domestic cricket. Now that he has retired, Warne is keen to come in and give back to the game by helping youngsters. The IPL is the perfect platform for him to do just that.

Has Emerging Media also appointed a consultant to help its IPL team form a cohesive unit?

We have a support team in place that includes physiotherapist John Glocter and assistant coaches. We believe that our team will be inspired by our captain and the support structure, and become a cohesive unit.

Has T20 brought sports and entertainment closer?

The emergence of T20 has been interesting because as working life has become more hectic, people are increasingly looking for instant gratification.

In India, while it has not been played often, we feel that this format will be well accepted. Since the IPL games will be played in floodlit stadiums in the evening, it will attract more women and families to enjoy an evening out.

How will IPL broaden the corporate involvement with cricket overall?

One of the things that will happen is that IPL will support academies, coaching centres, etc. These are feeder systems into T20 cricket.
How did the idea of doing Cricket Star come about?

We wanted to be a body that works with the BCCI but at the same time goes off into areas where it has not managed to find talent. We believe that there are people who, while possessing talent, do not have the money to turn up at the BCCI's coaching camps. We give them the chance to spend just two days with our experts and decide if they are good enough or not. If they are good enough, the sky is the limit.

How have you grown the event over the years and how successful has it been in uncovering hidden talent?

I think what Cricket Star lacked in the first season was the gratification platform. It wasn't clear what would happen with the chosen talent. Today anybody who is selected gets a contract with the Rajasthan Royals. The format has not changed much in terms of the testing process.

We are clear in terms of what we look for in a T20 cricketer. Last year, we found two boys who were very good. But we had restricted entries to those who were absolutely fresh and had not played first-class cricket. They had never been part of an under 15 or under 17 squad. This year, we have opened it up for everybody.

Finally, are you looking at other sports?

Yes! We are interested in soccer, tennis and golf. There is potential for these three sports to grow in the country. We are looking at different options in terms of how to go about it. In terms of whether we do a reality show around these sports, it depends on the level of interest. There are many things that can work in sport provided you are willing to invest and watch it grow gradually.

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