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Cricket beats Ruby to the Cup
- Kapil to anchor chat shows between matches

Sony Entertainment Television, the media house that has won exclusive rights to telecast World Cup cricket live in South Asia, has designed its marketing of the event around the theme “womanpower over the remote control”. Set Max, the Sony channel which will telecast the matches live, has also reached the conclusion that the game is better understood between Kapil Dev and Rajdeep Sardesai — and their interviewees — than with Ruby Bhatia.

Needless to say, SET’s strategy for marketing the World Cup is to rake in as much in revenue as possible after winning rights to telecast all International Cricket Council events till 2007. Industry had estimated that SET had won the cable and terrestrial rights for $ 375 million (approximately Rs 1,800 crore) but the final figures are not quoted by SET officials in public.

“We are not a sports or a news channel,” said Rajat Jain, executive vice-president and business head of Max. “So we are looking at cricket as programme presentation. It is our belief that the power over the remote control in Indian households lies with the woman but during cricket telecasts it passes to the men. We’re targeting cricket presentation for the family.”

Set Max experimented with the theme last September — some say with disastrous results but Max claims they were largely successful — when model-anchor-VJ Ruby Bhatia, self-confessed non-cricketer and non-cricket aficionado, anchored chat shows in between matches of the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka.

This time round, Set Max has relied for the in-betweens and the build-up on more experienced hands. Kapil Dil Se, a chat show in which Kapil Dev interviews cricketers, is already on air. It will climax with an interview of Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.

Sony has also roped in NDTV to produce a series of six panel discussions as “build-ups” ending on February 8 when the World Cup is inaugurated. The panel discussions — in a programme titled Jung World Cup Ki — will be presented by Rajdeep Sardesai, NDTV’s managing editor, political correspondent, son of Dilip Sardesai and himself an under-19 cricketer for the country.

“There are 4 crore cable and satellite homes. For cricket, there are almost 40 million viewers. Set Max has primarily been a movie channel. We have now set out to give cricket a larger appeal by audience participation and involvement. The idea is to present a complete carnival of cricket,” said Jain.

The strategy for this revolves around giving a voice to the audience. Set Max has tied up with market research agency Sofres Mode to present viewers’ opinion on matches, teams and players in a new segment called Voice of India in the on-air Extraa Innings anchored by Charu Sharma and produced by WSG Nimbus. It has also tied up with C2W.com to receive SMS texts.

“We are setting up a studio in Cape Town with a fantastic African backdrop,” claimed Jain. The cartoon tiger that was slipping across television screens during replays in the Champions Trophy has been christened “Deewana” (crazy) for the World Cup. That is also Set Max’s slogan, “Deewana Bana De”.

Jain promised cricket viewers that the commercial breaks would not intrude into the game — those irritating misses of the last and first balls of overs are being given a go by.

“In a seven-hour live telecast of cricket, other channels — like Doordarshan — have 6,000 to 6,500 seconds (about two hours) of commercials. We will keep this down to 4,000-4,500 seconds,” Jain said.

The main sponsor of the World Cup tourney is Pepsi and the associate sponsors are Hero Honda, Samsung, Close-up and Clinic. Jain said Reliance has now joined as an associate sponsor. Reliance is likely to use the World Cup for an aggressive promotion of its telecom businesses.

Jain said SET had sold rights for telecast in Singapore, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand where its signal is not beamed.

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