The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ad jitters for rebel league
No fireworks' An ICL match at Panchkula in Haryana. File picture

Mumbai, Dec. 8: The Zee group’s Indian Cricket League is not playing out the way Subhash Chandra thought it would.

Nearly a week into the rebel tournament, advertisers have started pulling out citing poor television ratings.

While the opening match last Friday managed a TRP of 0.5, the following matches saw further dips.

The average TRP rating for a Twenty20 international match is around 7 or 8.

Pushed into a corner, Zee Sports — the broadcast platform for the breakaway cricket league — has started slashing ad rates. The matches are also being telecast on Ten Sports in which Zee holds a 50 per cent stake.

“Initially, we were selling a combined 10-second ad spot on Zee Sports and Ten Sports for Rs 40,000. Later, it came down to Rs 25,000. Now the same spots are fetching between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000,” said a senior executive with the Essel Group, which controls Zee.

Rates for ad spots usually go up as a tournament approaches and jacks up even further as it gets under way and begins garnering more eyeballs.

The latest on-air sponsor to walk out was Havells, which came on board just before the launch of the tournament.

The poor cable and satellite distribution of Zee Sports is also being blamed for lack of eyeballs.

The tournament is being telecast across all channels (except those that show movies) owned by the group to counter the situation. “But it is not proving to be of much help,” the official conceded.

The low-scoring matches along with the lack of fireworks from any of the big stars, including Brian Lara, has left the audience cold, say industry watchers. And advertisers, who were interested in the rebel league till a few weeks back, are wary.

“To begin with, it was not realistic of advertisers to have high expectations of ICL in the immediate run. ICL is a long-term game. Results will not be immediate,” said Manish Porwal, vice-president, Starcom, a leading media planner.

Although the Essel executive admitted that advertisers were walking out, the “loss of face” did not mean “total loss of revenues”.

The group, the official added, has sold TV rights to three international broadcasters in deals worth a reported $10 million.

The three are satellite broadcaster Astro PPV, which caters to the Southeast Asia region, and the Sri Lanka-based Derana and Gateway that reach audiences in Europe and the US. All three have acquired rights for all ICL matches.

The ICL’s ongoing Twenty20 matches are also being broadcast on Zee Sports across the UK, the US and South Africa.

“We are not discouraged in any way. Things will get better once the distribution for Zee Sports improves,” the Essel Group official said. “As of now, that is the top priority.”

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