New Delhi: Television—and advertisers —just can’t get seem to get enough of cricket.
Even before the high-decibel buzz surrounding the Indian Premier League (IPL) falls silent, organizers are starting to hype up two other high-profile tournaments: the ICC World Twenty20 and the Champions League Twenty20, to be played in the coming months.
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In between these two events, the Indian team will go to the West Indies to play a one-day cricket series from 26 June to 5 July.
ICC World, to be contested by 12 countries including last year’s champions India and runners-up Pakistan, will be played in England from 5 June to 21 June.
The event, to be telecast by Star Cricket, the cricket-exclusive channel from the ESPN Star Sports bouquet, is tipped to generate a lot of viewer interest. Last year’s final between India and Pakistan received a historic television rating point, or TRP, of 15.2.
“We are confident that we will raise the bar this time again,” said R.C. Venkateish, managing director, ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd, the company that owns the rights to broadcast the event in India.
The Champions Trophy, the broadcast rights to which are also owned by ESPN, will be played in India between 8 October and 23 October.
It has domestic cricket league champions from seven top cricket-playing countries, including India (represented by the Deccan Chargers, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils), South Africa, England, Australia (top two teams each) and New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka (one team each), taking on each other.
Despite the cricket deluge, advertisers are not complaining about potential viwership fatigue. Instead, they are snapping up commercial advertising spots that are being sold at a high premium by ESPN Star Sports.
Smash hit: Bangalore Royal Challengers’ Roelof van der Merwe (right) plays a shot as Deccan Chargers’ Adam Gilchrist watches during their IPL final match in Johannesburg on 24 May. Mike Hutchings / Reuters
The broadcaster has raised its advertising rates for ICC World by 80% this year to Rs4 lakh per 10 seconds from Rs2.25 lakh last year.
“There is clearly no cricket fatigue visible...all high-profile cricket advertisers (brands that regularly advertise on cricket events) are queueing up to buy spots (on the forthcoming events),” said Hiren Pandit, managing partner of GroupM ESP, the entertainment, sports and partnerships division of media buying house GroupM.
ESPN Star Sports said it has an impressive line-up of advertisers for the ICC World event. “We have signed 10 sponsors and an additional 20 corporates (advertisers) for spot buys on live as well as pre-post programming,” said Venkateish.
The channel expects to gross at least Rs240 crore in advertising from the event.
This comes on the back of Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd, or MSMPL, the exclusive broadcaster for IPL in India, generating around Rs600-700 crore in advertising this year, according to a report by IIFL, the institutional equities arm of Mumbai-based India Infoline Ltd.
Some media buyers, however, estimate the amount to be in excess of Rs400 crore.
ESPN Star Sports expects a similar response to the Champions League.
Media buyers say that with such high-profile cricket tournaments, a big chunk of television advertising revenue will move to sports channels, hurting other genres such as Hindi general entertainment that have already seen advertisers spending less this year because of the economic downturn.
“More than 15-20% of all advertising inventory on TV will go to cricket this year,” said Pandit.
“This translates to at least Rs1,200 crore of the Rs7,000 crore total TV ad market while last year maybe only Rs500-600 crore was spent on cricket,” he said.
Sensing the threat from sports channels, some television networks have, in fact, already begun reworking their programming strategy in such a way that their big-ticket shows do not collide with cricket events.
“It’s a battle for the eyeballs,” said Basabdatta Chowdhuri, chief executive officer, Madison Media Plus, a unit of the Mumbai-based marketing communications company, Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd.
“Other channels are holding on to their big shows and launching them when there is no cricket. If you see during the IPL, there was not a single new programme launched,” said Chowdhuri, adding: “Likewise, they will launch their big-ticket programmes post T20 World Cup and before the next lot of tournaments begin.”
Keertan Adyanthaya, executive vice-president, Star Plus, the flagship Hindi general entertainment channel of Rupert Murdoch’s Star Network, said cricket was indeed a “factor” in deciding programming.
“We plan our programming keeping in mind various factors that can affect us,” he said. “Cricket is a big factor, especially tournaments like the IPL which last for five-six weeks. However, our shows are popular throughout the year and audiences do come back to watch our shows.”