Cricket isn't the only sport that sells in India; there are other sports that also command a fairly staunch following, and football is one among them. And it is this knowledge that has inspired sports channel ESPN Star Sports to bet on football. The channel has acquired the exclusive telecast rights of UEFA EURO 2004 - which has eight of the world's top 10 soccer-playing nations contending for top honours, making the sporting event something of a mini soccer World Cup - and it believes the football tournament would attract many Indian viewers, as football fans in this country follow European teams very closely.
"The popularity of soccer has increased in the country, especially among youngsters," says Sanjay Kailash, director, advertising sales, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd. And TAM figures vindicate Kailash's opinion. As per TAM Media Research (Males, 15+, SEC ABC, C&S homes) the FIFA World Cup finals registered an all-India TVR of 9.1, and in football-crazy cities like Kolkata and Kochi, the TVRs were as high as 51.9 and 29.4, respectively.
However, with 31 matches (including round matches and the finals) of UEFA EURO 2004 being telecast live at prime time 9.30 pm, the question is, can these matches manage a substantial share of viewership. Kailash thinks so, saying, "We hope that for 23 days (June 12 to July 4), males would exercise control over the remote and add to the overall viewership." And according to Sandip Tarkas, chief executive, Media Direction, although the viewership of these matches "cannot be higher than that of the general entertainment channels" that fact that the matches are being telecast during prime time "would add to viewership, which would certainly be more when compared to matches being telecast at odd hours".
ESPN Star Sports has launched a nation-wide campaign to promote the tournament in India. While print, radio, television and new media would be used extensively, a special emphasis is being given to outdoor. The channel is also resorting to ground-level activities as a part of its promotion plan. Contests have also been lined up, which would be backed by exciting prizes that include a trip to Europe.
While Kolkata would expectedly add substantial viewership, the sports channel is also concentrating on the Hindi-speaking states to broaden its viewership base. The channel has selected four Hindi commentators who would be stationed at Singapore, and would cover the championship from the studios in that city. Although Himanshu Verma, associate director, corporate communications, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd, declined from disclosing the names of the commentators, he said, "Hindi commentary would add greatly in increasing penetration of soccer in the Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Uttaranchal." However, he clarifies that viewers would also have the choice of English commentary. The nation's star footballer Bhaichung Bhutia has been signed on as a special analyst for the tournament.
The tournament has certainly managed generating interest among advertisers. While Samsung would be the 'presenting sponsor' for the live telecast, AirTel and Hero Honda are the associate sponsors. The channel claims to have sold 80 per cent of the advertising inventory for the championship. When quizzed about the advertising rates for the tournament, Kailash declined from commenting on the exact figures, but said that although the rates would not be comparable to those charged for one-day cricket matches (the rates for one-day internationals are astronomical), they are certainly on par with the rates charged for test matches.
While ESPN Star Sports has bagged several other soccer properties such as the English Premier League, the FA Football Package, the Asian Football Confederation Package, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup and the Spanish Premiere League, it would also continue with the best of golf from the US Masters, Augusta, and the PGA tour, apart from other international sports such as Formula 1, NBA Basketball, NFL Superbowl and MLB World Series baseball. To promote non-cricket sports and create involvement, the channel has taken the help of ESPN Star Sports' school programme through monthly contests, and creating innovative memorabilia such as EPL player cards, pens and T-shirts. The channel also ran a unique promotion in West Bengal by creating an EPL song in Bengali. © 2004 agencyfaqs!