New Delhi: The direct-to-home (DTH) arm of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Reliance Big TV Ltd, has pulled out of the proposed Rs137 crore on-ground sponsorship deal with the Indian Premier League (IPL).
According to the company’s official spokesperson, “We are in no way associated with the IPL either on ground or on TV and while we are in discussion with Sony (SET MAX) constantly, it is for properties other than IPL.”
SET MAX, the Hindi entertainment channel owned by broadcast network Multiscreen Media Pvt. Ltd (MMPL), is the exclusive broadcast partner for IPL cricket matches.
The reason behind Reliance Big TV’s withdrawal is that MMPL has signed its rival, Airtel Digital TV, the DTH arm of Bharti Airtel Ltd, as its on-air sponsor. “On-air sponsors get more eyeballs than the on-ground sponsors,” said a Reliance Big TV official, not wanting to be named. “In our case, we have paid IPL more than what Airtel is paying Sony. So the deal is not fair to us.”
Underdogs: Members of the Rajasthan Royals team celebrating their victory in the first season of the Indian Premier League. PTI
On air rights refers to advertisements shown on television during commercial breaks while on-ground advertising is done at match venues and includes other exclusive partnership rights.
According to IPL’s sponsorship guidelines, the on-ground sponsor has the first right of refusal for television rights, and only if it refuses can the rights go to another party.
“We did approach Big TV first but they refused. We then offered it to Airtel,” said Rohit Gupta, president, network sales, MMPL.
Big TV, however, said the offer was too high, which is why the firm turned it down. “Now, they have offered the same rights to Airtel at a much lesser price,” said the spokesperson
According to a media buyer, Airtel DTH has paid IPL close to Rs24 crore for on-air sponsorship. “We have followed every detail in our contract with IPL. We will not break our contract with Airtel,” said Gupta.
A similar controversy had broken out last year when beverages company PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd signed up with IPL for on-ground sponsorship while its rival Coca-Cola India Inc. had signed up with MMPL as the on-air sponsor. Pepsi argued that while it had paid IPL more than what Coca-Cola paid MMPL, the latter got more viewers because its advertisements were on air. This year, Pepsi terminated the contract with IPL, whereas Coca Cola is expected to be the on-air sponsor with MMPL once again.