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Telecasters’ fortunes soar with Sourav

New Delhi, March 4: Asked to calculate the kind of moolah he would rake in during the World Cup, a television executive let his hair down at cocktails one evening and quipped: “Ganguly & Co. just have to play on. It is the job of Holland, Namibia and Zimbabwe to take them into the Super Six. In that event, we should get close to targets we’ve set.”

That was shortly after India scraped past Holland, its batting was not holding, its bowling was being torn apart at the seam and it was generally believed that the mauling it had got in New Zealand had left the team in tatters. The television executive was convinced he was being pragmatic with a tinge of optimism.

“India is so mercurial,” the executive went on, “it is capable of beating the Australians and losing to the Namibians.”

Today, the executive is in South Africa, where he is still counting the cash but also partying hard, savouring every minute of the World Cup. In between, the little entries jotted down in his notebook will read: Pakistan, out. England, out. West Indies, out. South Africa, out. Four of the world’s top cricket-playing nations.

In' India, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand. Also, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Conclusion: India stands a chance of getting into the semi-finals by winning just one match. Kenya'

Two wins in three Super Six games will ensure that India is not number four in the standings. Since the topper from the Super Sixes will play the last to qualify in the semis, that should give India a reasonable chance of getting into the finals.

Phrrrrrrrr! In Sony Entertainment Television and Doordarshan and Nimbus, that is the sound of the cash-counting machine at work.

So dramatic has been the fall and rise in India’s fortunes this World Cup that telecasters, like fans and spectators, are at their wit’s end trying to read a pattern into it. Now, as the World Cup enters the Super Sixes and India strikes form, television companies have jacked up the prices of commercial time for advertisement spots.

Television executives rue that nearly 85 per cent of the commercial time — Nimbus is contracted to sell for Doordarshan 7,200 seconds per 100-over match and SET tries to sell 6,000 seconds per 100-over match — was sold in packages by the time the tournament set rolling.

Market sources say for the little time left in its inventory, SET is asking for close to $50,000 for half-minute spots in matches featuring India. SET bought all ICC events rights till 2007 for an estimated $255 million. Its target from World Cup 2003 is believed to be upwards of Rs 250 crore.

Nimbus, which brokered the terrestrial telecast rights for 16 matches of the World Cup to Doordarshan, has guaranteed the public broadcaster at least Rs 20 crore and has entered into a revenue-sharing arrangement with it. Nimbus gets to keep 80 per cent of the ad revenue.

“Actually, I believe they (Nimbus) have left just about 10 per cent of the commercial time that should have been sold by this evening after the Super Six line-up was known. Of course, they would be charging a premium,” a Prasar Bharati official said.

That will mean about 720 seconds per match on Doordarshan. If SET still has 10 per cent left to sell that will mean about 600 seconds per match. There are 12 matches to go.

Also helping the telecasters jack up prices for the little commercial time they had left unsold till today, is the latest TAM television viewership rating figures for the last week, which show that of a total of nearly 80 million viewers who watched cricket on Max, Doordarshan and Sony, a total of 36.5 million were women.

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