The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cup close shave for budget

New Delhi, Feb. 27: At the headquarters of the Confederation of Indian Industry here, organisers putting finishing touches to arrangements for the Union budget presentation are blessing their stars that the event has not coincided with the India-Pakistan World Cup match.

Every year, industrialists and businessmen gather at the CII to watch the presentation of the budget live on television. The CII lets out its floors to NDTV, Aaj Tak and Zee, who build makeshift studios where anchors quiz the industrialists for reactions and analysis which are beamed live.

Last year, as Yashwant Sinha was reading out the budget, viewers here also kept count of the mounting toll in Gujarat that flashed across television tickers. The events in Gujarat subsequently relegated news of the Union budget to the inside pages of newspapers and filled time on television between shots of rampaging mobs and a burning Gujarat urbanscape.

This year, too, the Union budget will invariably be subsumed by the World Cup in clocking time on television but every 24-hour news channel with time to fill has hyped up the event if only to nibble at the advertising pie that Sony Entertainment Television and Doordarshan are taking generous chunks of.

The gamble that media players are taking is based on India’s performance. Television viewership ratings from the first week of the World Cup show that viewership plummets if India is not batting or not faring well. So, on Saturday and Sunday, if the budget continues to hog the telly, you can bet that Ganguly & Co has flunked.

Saturday’s India-Pakistan match is expected to garner a viewership that could outstrip all previous ratings. It takes place in the backdrop of worsening ties and rising vitriol between the neighbours and after a year-long military standoff.

The last time an India-Pakistan cricket match was hyped up to this level was during the Kargil war at the time of the 1999 World Cup which India won. (The last India-Pakistan cricket match was in Dhaka at the Asia Cup in 2000 when India lost by 44 runs).

A SET Max executive claims the channel’s “add-ons” such as Extraaa Innings have broken new ground and have dramatically increased the number of women among its viewers.

SET has also roped in Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi for the recently-concluded India-England and the March 1 India-Pakistan match to analyse the games.

Doordarshan sources, analysing the TAM readings, claimed, in the first week of the World Cup, viewership clocked 10.14 when India was batting against Australia which plummeted to 5.06 when India was not batting.

On a rough estimate, in cable and satellite (C&S) homes, 10 points translate to about 7 million viewers and 14 million in all TV homes. By virtue of being the only terrestrial channel, Doordarshan has the greatest reach but advertisers distribute their moolah among C&S households — presumed to have more disposable incomes — and DD. (DD is also must-carry by cable operators).

But despite the high ratings, in the first week of the World Cup at least, teleserials Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki scored higher in the ratings than cricket.

The highest viewership during the week was for Doordarshan’s Hindi feature film Hadh Kar Di Apne, featuring Govinda and Rani Mukherjee, which clocked 12.02 television rating points.

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