Mumbai: Sachet culture is beginning to pervade the realm of sports programming. The (Indo-Australia) Future Cup telecast on Neo Sports has pitched for seven one-day matches and one 20-overs game.

The small handy packaging has already attracted the 25–plus high-profile sponsors and advertisers who will spend a whooping 750 million in advertisements for this series alone, say media buyers

Still flush with victory in the Twenty20 World Cup, the wave of euphoria was felt on the ad pitch too. Packaging cricket in a small square of 20 overs, versus the traditional 50-overs game, helped win broadcaster ESPN Star Sports a tidal wave in viewership, with an estimated two-thirds of Indian fans glued to their TV sets.

Higher ad rate for this format versus 50-over game

10 ad seconds for the Twenty20 series were sold for a premium of 2.5-3 lakh, while ad rates for 50-overs cricket sell at an average of 1-1.5 lakh for 10 ad seconds, according to media buyers.

During the Twenty20 finals, where ESPN had unsold inventory, 10 ad seconds went for as much as 7 lakh.

Short format TV more the norm

Not just cricket, other sports and programming too can strive for briefer or sachet formats. ‘Various sports have already remodeled themselves into shorter advertiser-friendly versions like rink hockey. For Twenty20, the format was successful because the International Cricket Council decided to be innovative.

Any sport can be adapted to a shortened, advertiser/viewer-friendly style, provided the apex body gives it leeway,’’ says Roland Landers, business head, Percept Sports, division of Percept Holdings Pvt Ltd.

Sachet or small packaging has already worked well for sales in the packaged goods sector. It is only natural then for broadcasters to tread the same path. Thinking small as a strategy promises more eyeballs and focused viewer attention in an attention-deficit age, in the process attracting higher ad rates or spends.

“Few people today have the time to watch a one-day game, which is why smaller game format works better. It increases attention span and keeps viewers’ interest levels high," says Sharat Jain, CEO, Dentsu Media.

Recognizing viewers’ short attention spans

Ajay Kakar, head of branding, Reliance Capital Ltd, talks about the passing fancies of consumers in the new digital age. The consumer is changing. Are you?, he asks.

Ajay Kakar, head of branding, Reliance Capital

The preference for short clips can be attributed to YouTube, iPods and the world wide web. “Twenty20 as a sport should have taken off long ago. However, its success lies in the fact that it’s action packed and cuts the long story short. Music channels and radio stations have effectively used shorter capsules and results have been more than satisfactory. A music video with its three minute run is the ultimate example of condensed content," says Amar K Deb, head honcho, Channel V, Star India Pvt Ltd.

As Kathy Sharpe, CEO, Sharpe Partners (independent digital marketing and media agency) says in her column: Hollywood moghuls may want to step back from planning the next three-hour car chase extravaganza. Increasingly, preferred content is short and short-format trend is most apparent in the demographic that feeds the Hollywood machine - the under-30s.

Emotional drama has high appeal

Heightened emotions and engagement rub off to higher recall for ads shown during such programmes. “Shorter formats have a tribal passion about them. For viewers, it’s not just about the athletics but also about the emotional drama that’s being played out.

Irfan Pathan

People barely zip-zap commercials in these kinds of formats. In other kinds of programming or longer games, there is a high level of attrition. Not so in Twenty20," says Paritosh Joshi, president, Star India Pvt Ltd.

Consumer and advertiser friendly medium

This is an advertiser-friendly format inspite of inventory being sold premium, according to Chandradeep Mitra, President, Optimum Media Solutions, media arm of Mudra Communications Pvt Ltd. “The format swings wildly between the two parties. Limited time exists between the two innings, but ad-breaks are strategic and come at a time when wickets fall, or there are fours and sixes. There is barely any movement between the breaks and multiple opportunities for advertisers to brand themselves."

Cues that other sports could take?

“Actually, cricket’s learning from other games. Basketball and hockey are already short formats in 70 minutes and 90 minutes respectively. Cricket in its earlier avatar used to go on for five days. Even in its shorter version, it amounted to one full day, longer than most other games. Twenty20 (format) may just turn to be a big ticket winner," says Mitra.