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Thursday, Dec 11, 2003

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Ten Sports scores with India-Pak cricket series

Sriram Srinivasan

Chennai , Dec. 10

THE India-Pakistan cricket series is more than three months away, but it already seems to have produced a winner: Ten Sports, which holds the exclusive rights to telecast the matches played in Pakistan.

The Dubai-based sports channel, according to media planners, has already sold nearly two-thirds of its ad inventory to the series' presenting sponsors, Bajaj and Samsung, and associates Hutch, GlaxoSmithKline, Maruti, LG, Pepsi and Hero Cycles.

Together, the eight have lapped up their entire quota of airtime for an amount estimated at Rs 80 crore. "And that's just a conservative figure," said an industry source, adding that the channel has got a premium by signing companies that operate in highly competitive categories. The various `properties' (such as `Fall of wickets') have also been sold out.

Taj Television, which owns Ten Sports, refused to comment on the matter.

It could not be ascertained whether the cricket series has elicited a similar response from Pakistani advertisers. (The series is to be shown throughout the sub-continent.)

The channel is expected to announce in January the rates for spot deals, which involve purchase of standalone ad spots. The sources said they expected the spot rates to be well above $7,000 per 30-second slot, which is the norm. They also reckon there will be a hefty premium on last-minute sales — sports channels usually keep around 10 per cent of their inventory for advertisers who decide to join the fray late.

The remaining one-third of the ad inventory, thus, could fetch Ten Sports a similar amount, if not more, said a source.

The sponsorship deals work this way: The top sponsors — presenting and associate — are chosen through bids. In this case, each presenting sponsor has been allotted 300 seconds of airtime per match day, which translates to ten 30-second slots. It is learnt that each associate sponsor has a quota of 240 seconds per match day or eight 30-second slots. Out of a total airtime of around 3,000 seconds per match day, Ten Sports has sold the top sponsors over 2,000 seconds of airtime.

The series involves three test matches and seven one-day internationals.

In addition, the deal for the top eight sponsors includes allotment of slots during a repeat telecast or highlights package, as also the inclusion of their names during promotional advertising.

For the advertisers, the series couldn't have come at a better time. The cricket matches in March-April will provide an ideal platform for segments such as consumer durables to gain visibility, leading up to the `peak' summer months, said the source.

Of course, it's the first `full' India versus Pakistan series in more than a decade, and "who wouldn't want to be part of it," said this media industry official.

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