After cricket, it is tennis. And Doordarshan is leaving no stone unturned to woo audiences to tune in to its terrestrial network to view the second Grand Slam tournament of the year - the French Open.
The terrestrial player has entered into an exclusive agreement with London-based RayMedia Ltd to present live the semi-finals and finals of the French Open happening at Roland Garros, Paris.
RayMedia, according to its director Ashis Ray who was formerly CNN's founding chief of the South Asia bureau in New Delhi, has the exclusive rights to the semifinals and finals of the French Open, which will be shown on DD Metro. "Worldwide, terrestrial broadcasters have the privilege of showing the semifinals and finals of Grand Slam tournaments (also called listed events). This practise has now come into India with our exclusive agreement with Doordarshan for the telecast of the penultimate and final rounds, which will extend for a minimum of three years with an option for renewal available for another two years."
Also included in the agreement are the men's and mixed doubles finals provided an Indian player or players makes/make it to the final round. "This would naturally be of high interest value to Indians considering that we have two formidable players in Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi," he says.
The company, which was formed in 1999, will, in the words of Ray, present a "special live coverage straight from Paris, customised for India". A half-hour preview will lead to the matches to be telecast on June 5, 6, 7 and 8, which is the final day of the tournament.
Most matches, according to Ray, will be telecast during evening primetime Indian Standard Time. "Most of the matches during the four-day period will be held in the afternoon. Considering the Indian time zone, telecast time would be in the evening during primetime."
Apart from assigning the coverage to Doordarshan, RayMedia has also purchased telecast time on DD Metro to broadcast the French Open matches, in lieu of which, Doordarshan has allocated free commercial time or FCT to RayMedia to recover its investment. According to Ray, the free commercial time is anywhere between 7,000 to about 9,500 seconds and feedback from the market, in terms of advertisers parking their monies, has been "reasonably good". "We signed the agreement on May 13 and we are talking to all major media buyers," he says.
The company will be embarking on a promotional blitzkrieg encompassing TV and press informing tennis lovers about new developments on the French Open front on DD, at the same time attempting to catch the attention of those viewers who have a "marginal interest in the tournament". "Tennis has a solid following in India," says Ray, "and this exercise is aimed at increasing the base of viewers," he adds.
The promotional budget, according to Ray, is a "significant amount", though he refuses to put a figure to it. The exercise starts on May 19.
Meanwhile, the French Tennis Federation has issued a strong statement condemning any claim made by rival networks regarding the telecast of the semi-finals and finals of the French Open. The confusion, according to Ray, arose when marketing executives at Ten Sports, which is broadcasting the entire tournament beginning from the first round match on May 26, went to the media to claim that the "semi-finals and finals would be simulcast on Ten Sports and DD". "That cannot happen because we have exclusive rights to the semi-finals and finals," asserts Ray. "Even if they telecast the entire event, the last two rounds would have to be deferred by a few hours. There can be no simulcast (that is, a simultaneous telecast)."
Officials at Ten Sports were unavailable for comment. A letter issued by Michel Grasch, media director of the French Tennis Federation as on May 14, reads as follows: "RayMedia Ltd of London enjoy exclusive live rights to the semifinals and finals of the French Open for the territory of India and intends to broadcast these on DD Metro.
No other entity has live rights to the semifinals and finals of the French Open for the territory of India. Any such claim is false and misleading." © 2003 agencyfaqs!