India v Australia 2008-09 / Features

Australia in India 2008-09

Broadcaster bets on big bucks

With increased audiences tuned in, Neo Sports, the channel which holds the broadcast rights for the four-Test series, will be as pleased as punch

Judhajit Basu

October 16, 2008

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Sourav Ganguly's farewell series is expected to attract record numbers to the TV screen © AFP
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A Test series that was the focus of all attention way before it started - since January, really, when these teams last met - has become all the more riveting since it started. Exit policies, records, injuries, verbal battles will give way, over the next five days, to the possibility of a result on the field. If that's good news for Test cricket, currently overshadowed by newer forms of the game, it's good news for the broadcaster, which has staked big money on it.

With increased audiences tuned in, Neo Sports - the channel holding the broadcast rights - had upped its advertising revenue targets for the India-Australia series from the earlier Rs 114 crore [approximately US$23.5m] to Rs 124 crore [approx $25.5m]. It has also managed to get eight sponsors for the series - Airtel (the presenting sponsor), Hero Honda, Toyota, Coca Cola, Nivea, Pidilite, Royal Bank of Scotland and HDFC Standard Life.

The title rights for the series are believed to have been sold for Rs 50 lakh ($100,000) per Test for main sponsor Airtel, with associate sponsors shelling out Rs 15-20 lakh ($30-40,000) per match. "The ongoing series is also expected to break all previous ratings records," Sanjay Bhoer, vice-president marketing & sales strategy, Neo Sports, said. "The highest average TRPs for an India-Australia Test series are 3.70 with a peak of 9.71, back in 2004. This time around, Neo expects to achieve a record figure of around 4.0-4.25 with a peak of 11+."

Sunil Manocha, executive vice-president - advertising revenue, Neo Sports Broadcast, confirmed the entire ad inventory for the series had been sold out

Though the figures are a considerable improvement from the last Test series at home against South Africa, the question is whether Test cricket can actually hold up to the Twenty20 format. Many see this series as a test - no pun intended - for cricket's oldest version. "The comparison with the South Africa series would have been unfair as Pakistan and Australia have always the big draws in India, hence the marked improvement in sales and projected ratings. But the debate over the superiority of Twenty20 does not hold good here," Manocha said. "It is pointless as two events are not on simultaneously. True, that Twenty20 has raked in more sponsors - most notably FMCG companies hopping on to the bandwagon - but a well-fought series will always have advertisers tuned in. It is unfortunate that people believe that Tests are being killed."

 
 
What people need to understand is that the business windows for tournaments like the IPL open only for a seven-week window whereas the BCCI properties, which include series like the one against Australia, are for a season. Hence, brands want sale from cricket throughout the year and hence cannot be restricted to the narrow window like that of the IPLVenu Nair, WorldSportGroup's India head
 

Lokesh Sharma, whose Twenty-First Century Media is in charge of the in-stadia advertising for the second and third Tests at Mohali and Delhi, echoed the sentiment. "I don't think Test cricket has lost out to the Twenty20 at all in terms of revenue. Even earlier, they had to contend with the one-day format, a shorter version, and haven't they managed to survive well?"

Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept Holdings however was still wary of the impact of the shortest version. "Twenty20 is the glossier version of instant returns. It's cricketainment at its best. The shorter, more exciting version gives the advertisers the best option - 60 days of high viewership numbers for something like the IPL."

While WorldSportGroup (WSG) formed a consortium with Sony to dish out $914 million for securing the broadcast rights for the IPL, the ground/in-stadia naming rights for international matches to be played in India till 2010 have come at Rs 185 crore for the Singapore-based sports marketing company alone.

Venu Nair, WSG's India head believed the commercial viability of Test match cricket, more importantly, the India-Australia series is still strong though the numbers may suggest a tilt towards the Twenty20 format. "Earlier series have also seen the entry of newer clients like Future Group, Mecon and RBS now. We also have lined up some inventory innovations for the current series as well with Toyota presenting their latest model Corolla Altis to the Man-of-the-Series.

"What people need to understand is that the business windows for tournaments like the IPL open only for a seven-week window whereas the BCCI properties, which include series like the one against Australia, are for a season. Hence, brands want sale from cricket throughout the year and hence cannot be restricted to the narrow window like that of the IPL."

Judhajit Basu is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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