The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ad-swamped channels vow to put cricket first

New Delhi, Feb. 8: One over to go, eight runs to win, India batting, last two wickets. Kaif, 48, facing Akram. The Pakistani pacer comes in from a short run-up, into Kaif’s pads, Kaif turns it around, takes the first run fast, is returning for the second, Zaheer does not want it, the throw from fine leg is homing in and... the telly screen is filled with the vision of foaming toothpaste.

All too often, the cricket fan has found himself shortchanged by commercials when the game is teetering on the brink. Doordarshan and Sony Entertainment Television, who will telecast the World Cup matches, have this time promised that commercials will not intrude into the game. But with upwards of Rs 500 crore riding on television advertisements, who knows'

Even as the channels were closing their advertisement sales, Doordarshan and Nimbus have roped in two more sponsors for the cricket World Cup that takes off tonight — the first game is tomorrow. Sony, which will be showing the game on SET and MAX, has promised to space out the advertisements.

“We will make sure that they do not eat into the cricket,” Rajat Jain, SET’s executive vice-president, has given the assurance.

Doordarshan sources said they are bound by a contract with WSG Nimbus, which holds the rights for the World Cup matches, to telecast all the advertisements that have been booked.

“Normally, it is our experience that as the game progresses, the first ball of an over gets blanked out by commercials. This time, we hope, that will not happen.” In private, however, they admit, that in crunch matches, with heavy bookings and the desperation with which revenues are mopped up, that does happen.

So full is Doordarshan’s order book with advertisements that Nimbus proposed a recorded telecast of all matches in addition to the games that will be beamed live.

Doordarshan’s package of daily highlights in the 8-9 am slot on its national channel is full too. DD will be telecasting 16 matches live — including all India matches, five of the super-sixes, the semi-finals and the finals. SET MAX will telecast all matches live.

Industry sources say in a full 100-over match, Doordarshan would have between 6,000-6,500 seconds (more than an hour and 20 minutes) of advertising. In SET and MAX, the commercials would take up between 4,500-5,000 seconds.

Doordarshan and Nimbus took on two more advertisement sponsors over the last two days, even as sales for commercials during the World Cup were closing. DD-Nimbus’ advertisers will have Pepsi, LG Electronics and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited as ‘presenting’ sponsors and Indian Oil with its Servo brand of lubricants, Hindustan Lever (Pepsodent and Lifebuoy), Colgate, an insurance company and an airline, Cadbury’s and Maruti among its other advertisers.

Sony will have Pepsi, Hero Honda, Samsung, Hindustan Lever (Clinic) and Reliance Infocomm on board.

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