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Indo-Pak series, a boon for TEN Sports

V Krishnaswamy | February 07, 2004

When Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, the man who pioneered cricket in Sharjah, launched TEN Sports in Dubai, he had his eye firmly on Indo-Pak sports.

Now, as figures come in about the advertising rates for the forthcoming India-Pakistan cricket series it looks as if he has finally slogged the ball over the boundary.

For Bukhatir it has been a long wait. India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads for years and the government firmly stopped all sporting contacts with Pakistan and wouldn't even allow the Indian team to travel to Sharjah. So, the current series will be the first since India last visited Pakistan in 1989. It will have three Test matches and five one-dayers.

TEN Sports made its entry as a major sports channel on the eve of the 2002 football World Cup -- they had the rights for the India region and some parts of the neighbourhood.

But this series, scheduled for March-April, will be a huge bonanza for TEN, so much so it has refused to share the live telecast rights or even give partial rights to a state channel like Doordarshan. It has however, signed a deal allowing DD to telecast a one-hour highlights package every night on Test days and the following day in the case of one-dayers.

Interestingly, TEN had, during the last few years, picked up rights for hockey -- again the focus being India-Pakistan matches -- and then managed cricket rights in Pakistan for $42 million dollars last year. It also has the rights for cricket in Sri Lanka.

TEN's marketing team, led by livewire Peter Hutton, who even lends his voice to commercials and promos on the channel, has closed in on all possible India-Pak clashes in sport. If the Asia Cup came to be held, it could be in UAE, Pakistan or Lanka and then TEN would have the rights. The Indian rights, of course, belong to DD.

While cricket fans cannot wait to tune in to the channel, it is the prospect of big bucks that has TEN officials jumping in glee. The 10-second spots on the channel are said to be going for as much as Rs 410,000 for the one-day matches. In the case of Test matches, the rates are said to be Rs 85,000 for a 10-second spot.

Just to give an indication of how high these rates are, a Test-match spot of 10 seconds went for about Rs 125,000 to Rs 150, 000 during the India-Australia one-day series, with the finals fetching upwards of Rs 200,000 per spot.

Many of these were package deals signed before the start of the series. For the Test matches, the rates began at a modest Rs 25,000 for a spot in the first Test, rose for the second and is said to have peaked for the third and fourth Tests at just over Rs 40,000 per spot.

During the World Cup in South Africa, Set Max pegged the India-Pakistan clash at Rs 237,000 for 10 seconds, the highest for the entire World Cup. The rates were actually lower when India played Australia in the final.

The big money for TEN will come from the advertisers who have picked up a bulk of the inventory, even before the first ball has been bowled. TEN has also signed up two presenting sponsors for the series in Bajaj Auto and Samsung, which are said to have paid Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million) each.

TEN also has about seven associate sponsors, all paying around Rs 8 crore (Rs 80 million) each. The sponsors are said to include the likes of Hutch, GlaxoSmithKline, Indian Oil Corporation Hero Cycles, Pepsi, LG Electronics and Maruti.

As is the general practice, the channel has kept a portion of advertising time for the latter stages of the series, should it become even more nail-biting. It always helps to have some inventory left over for something like the final of a five-match one-day series. That makes it all the more valuable.

Money apart, there may be some more good news for fans of Navjot Singh Sidhu. The former India opener, well known for his outlandish "Sidhuisms", could be on air for TEN during the India-Pakistan series alongside the likes of Tony Greig, Barry Richards, Rameez Raja, Sanjay Manjrekar and some others. Sidhu is said to have gone off air from ESPN-Star following an on-air spat with fellow commentator Alan Wilkins.

To put it in cricketing idiom, TEN has hit all the others for a six!

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