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TEN Sports: Where to now?

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 14, 2002
After the FIFA World Cup, the channel has lined up a slew of new events. But to edge past competition, it will have to win over the cable operator


After the euphoria of the World Cup died down many raised the question, where will TEN Sports go? Compared to its rival sports channels - ESPN and SETMAX, the events channel from Sony that has got into sports in a big way - TEN Sports, at first glance, has neither the mix of offerings that SETMAX has, or the "development of additional properties" that ESPN is looking at.

However, the channel sees smooth sailing ahead and channel officials say that a clear-cut marketing and programming strategy has been fashioned to counter rivals. Says Chris McDonald, chief executive, Taj Television, promoter of TEN Sports. "TEN Sports is a television channel concentrating on building long-term value for the viewer. Large events like the FIFA World Cup drive interest and value for a short period of time, but to have regular viewers you need to constantly innovate and have programming that excites viewers to tune in even in the absence of large events."

In concentrating on pure sports programming, and that too only on the television, the channel is taking a path different from the other sports channels. ESPN is stressing hard on its online properties, while SETMAX has positioned itself as an events channel, and does not have the crucial dependence on sports that TEN Sports has. Also, at the end of the day, the channel has the backing of its parent in the US, and the muscle of Sony Corporation behind it. Thus, despite the huge outlay that the channel has put for the ICC World Cup rights, there is a fall back option.

But before we look at what TEN Sports has in store for the future, here's a quick SWOT analysis of the Abdul Rehman Bukhatir-promoted channel.

Media analysts have a paradigm by which they measure a sports channel. One, does the channel have "large reach builders", that is, events that will keep attracting the audiences? Two, does the channel have a constant stream of audience pulling programs, or the "niche audience pullers"? Three, what is the extent of the channel's rapport with the cable operators or "connectivity"?

TEN Sports scores high on two and hopes to work hard on the third.

For the first, the channel has drawn up a programming line-up that it hopes will pull in the viewers - a combination of events and routine sports programming. The "event pulling shows" kicked off with the Morocco Cup on August 12. It will be followed up by the Champions Trophy from Sharjah later this year; and then it has an exclusive deal for all the cricket matches in Sri Lanka. This will give the channel an advantage as the teams of England and South Africa will be touring.

To build up a retinue of "niche audience pullers" or a constant stream of programmes that will slowly build up channel loyalty, TEN Sports will concentrate on regular events like the Champions Trophy hockey from Germany, The Ryder Cup, Beach Volleyball and the WTA tour in women's tennis. Also, there would be programmes like the wrestling matches of the WWF, football from Manchester United, Live Formula 1 action and the Telefonica World series where Indian formula driver Narain Karthikeyan is racing. The channel is also counting on sports hits from abroad, like Raw, Smackdown, Livewire, Heat, Superstars and Afterburn, to pull in the audiences.

The channel also has special features like Legends, a programme that features a sporting icon. While the channel will have the profiles of Sachin Tendulkar and Muhammad Ali on the pilot episode, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram are slotted to come later this month. And, finally, to satisfy those viewers who want to know the personality beyond the public façade, the channel plans to host a chat show hosted by popstar Raageshwari. Says McDonald, "TEN Sports will have an edge over any other sports channel with this line-up of programming."

The channel is counting on the exclusivity of the programmes to bring the viewers in.
But, it is on the third parameter - "connectivity" - that the channel is finding the going tough. In the absence of an organised cable industry, the rough and ready cable network that operates in Indian cities has a crucial role to play in the success of any channel. For they have one key decision to make - the channels to carry on the prime band. Says Rajesh, a cable operator based in Mumbai's Chembur suburbs, "We usually carry a sports channel on prime band only if a big event is happening. Once that is over, we move them out of prime band."

Media planners, when judging the viability of a channel put a lot of emphasis on this aspect of connectivity, which, irrespective of programming initiatives, is the key driver for every channel in India. TEN Sports, after its presence during the football matches, has disappeared in some areas. One key element in the "connectivity" factor is the ability to connect with the cable operator, and convince them to carry the signals. However, in practice, this is tempered by consumer demand - no matter what the channel is willing to shell out to the operator, he cannot do much if there is little consumer demand for the product. "To get top of the mind recall among cable operators is difficult. No matter how proactive you are with your marketing, only great content sells," points out a senior media planner.

In other words, if TEN Sports scores on the first two, only then can it hope to carry the third. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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