Enough backers for payback series?

15 Nov,2012

 

By Johnson Napier

 

The India-England cricket series that kicks off from November 15, 2012 is being billed as a revenge or payback series by most scribes who follow the sport closely. Be it the media, analysts, critics or even players/commentators, virtually all are going gaga about how the current series would be the one to watch out for as India will be fighting to prove its mettle as being the best in the business. The fact that the men in blue were thrashed badly by the Englishmen the last time they played each other makes the cause even more compelling. But is the prevailing sentiment as positive as is being made out to be, or will it be a tough ask for the channel as it begins its quest to draw in more audiences? And, more importantly, what is the response that can be solicited from the advertisers who of late are opting to stay aloof from their association with the sport?

 

To begin with, the good news is that the tournament begins at a time when most of India is in the mood for celebration what with the festival season already underway. So while partying, visiting relatives and relaxing would be top of mind for most it would also mean being able to sit at home and watch Sachin Tendulkar or Virendra Sehwag get India off to a roaring start. And that’s what is leading everybody to believe that the Series will at least kick off on a high note.

 

Ayaz Memon

Anticipating a huge response, senior journalist, sportswriter and now commentator Ayaz Memon is hopeful that the current series will be a success. As Hindi commentator for the current series, Mr Memon sounded positive: “I feel the pressure is more on India as they have to prove a point on the home turf. The fact is that India hasn’t lost a home series since 2004, and also the record since the last 12 months hasn’t been good so the pressure is squarely on the Indian team. Also the team is not in peak form as can be inferred from their recent performances across other tournaments. So one can expect the Indian team to put up a compelling fight, to say the least.”

 

Backing up his claim, Mr Memon said that the channel has been doing a good job promoting the series. “I will be doing commentary for Star in Hindi and I can tell you that they have done a good job in building up the tournament and promotion-led activities. Even on the print platform the exposure has been pretty good. But we will have to wait and see how it pans out over the next few weeks. But I am sure that the viewership will be higher than the previous Test matches. The fact that you have Sachin Tendulkar playing in the series along with Yuvraj, Harbhajan and also Kevin Pietersen from England etc, I think it will be a marquee series.”

 

Balakrishna

Backing Mr Memon’s optimism is PM Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media, who said, “From a cricket and sentiment point of view, I feel people are looking forward to the series. It is being touted as the Grudge Series going by the promotional activities that are being carried out by the broadcaster. The audience really wants to see India thrash the English. So based on the hype, I expect to see more crowds at the stadium and also more ratings for the broadcaster.”

 

But while the initial sentiment seems bright it is definitely not easy predicting results before the start of the tournament. The prediction becomes even more difficult when the series begins with a Test match and not ODIs or T20 that can guarantee some decent TVRs. When asked about the possible ratings that can be expected, Mr Balakrishna said, “Test matches have never been about ratings like ODIs or T20. But maybe because of the fact that this is a long holiday week, one can expect high ratings at least from the initial match itself. While it would be difficult to hazard a guess, I would be happy to go with an average TVR of 2-3.”

 

Kartik Sharma

Kartik Sharma, Managing Partner, Maxus India was more forthright, saying, “Any cricket tournament involving India is always unpredictable but exciting. As Indians, we obviously want our country to win but a sport like cricket is always difficult to predict. If you ask me, the sentiments are purely driven by the results of the first few matches. And going by our ability to digest defeat, we Indians don’t really fare well in that department. By that I mean that if we lose a match or two, we tend to divert our attention to other sports or television properties. But then again, this being a festival/holiday season I expect at least the first few matches to have a decent viewership as people will be at home and thus would be able to watch the matches. By nature, Test matches anyway do not draw in more audiences compared to what the T20 or ODI matches do. So I am expecting an average TVR of 2+ for Test matches and an average TVR of 4+ for ODIs.”

 

Mahesh Ranka

Presenting another factor that could guarantee ratings or dismiss them, Mahesh Ranka, CEO, Indus Sports asserted that it may even depend on the opponent playing against India: “If it is Australia or even England, there could be some decent ratings expected, as these teams are ranked higher compared to what a Bangladesh or Zimbabwe series would draw. The thing about England is that we lost to them badly when we went there so hopefully, we can look forward to avenging that result through the current series. And if India happens to win the first match, you could expect more audiences (in the range of 20-30 percent more on the base figure) who will come in for the second match, and so on.”

 

But in the overall analysis, Mr Ranka is of the opinion that the current series will not have anything great to offer in terms of viewership, at least as far as the Test matches go. “The ratings that Test matches have thrown up in the recent past kind of puts everything under the scanner. Though people (particularly media) tend to hype any tournament, Test matches have never really managed to draw in the audience (viewership). That’s because people have their own mindset behind watching any match and advertisers will always have to move along taking into account the risk of losing out on viewership.”

 

On the interest shown by advertisers, Mr Ranka said, “From an advertiser’s perspective, one has to always look at why cricket is typically watched: it is brought for reach. There are two things to that. Firstly it is the festival season where advertisers have monies to spend and whether it is cricket or no, they will eventually spend at this time of the year. The rates that could be expected for Test matches in the current series would be in the range of Rs 50,000 to 1 lakh for ten seconds.”

 

Taking a diplomatic stand Mr Sharma said, “The advertiser sentiment depends on the packages that are being offered by the broadcaster and there are various deals in store. But I wouldn’t be able to comment if the rates are more or less compared to the previous tournaments.”

 

Presenting a bullish outlook, Mr Balakrishna said that from the advertiser’s standpoint, the sentiment seems pretty positive. “Against the backdrop of digitization, one genre that is the least affected always is cricket, as the sport is not always about being CPRP-led but also about hype and other such factors. So I do see a positive resonance to the whole series from an advertiser standpoint. Also, I am sure that the channel would have factored in the tough economic scenario and therefore would have come up with a competitive package for the advertisers, making it a win-win for both of them.”

 

So whether it will be a winner or a dampener, what the India-England Series is managing to do is turn the spotlight back to cricket. Which is a good move considering that the recently held Champions League tourney didn’t go down too well with audiences. The icing on the cake would be if India manages to whitewash the team from England. TVCs have been saying that India “Angrezon ki band bajaayega” – that is, will thrash the English. Music to our ears or hitting the wrong notes? The game will tell.

 

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