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ESPN STAR, advertisers on a sticky wicket

June 16, 2009 01:53 IST
At least a dozen advertisers, including Reliance Communications, Nokia, Pepsi, Hero Honda, Maruti and Visa among others, and host broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports may find themselves on a sticky wicket with India's exit from the current world Twenty20 cricket tournament.

Advertisers are in a fix because they have invested around Rs 185 crore in ad spots for the tournament that is being broadcast on the STAR Cricket channel in India, and India's exit means they'll get less bang for the buck.

Ratings of non-India matches have consistently fallen below 1.5 per cent, which media planners consider extremely low for a popular cricket tournament, and this raises concerns over viewership for the remaining matches.

Since India has lost two of its fixtures in the Super Eight stage, it has no chance of making it to the semi-finals (it has one more match to play against South Africa). "With India out of the World Cup, the ratings for the semi-finals and finals may also fall extremely low, so the cost-per-ratings-point, the factor on which advertisers get their returns, will now work out very high," said a media planner requesting anonymity.

"With dismal ratings for the non-India matches, most of the regular advertisers are evaluating their options of continuing to use the T20 World Cup platform for their brands," added a senior executive of a leading media agency.

As a result, sources in the advertising industry added that ESPN STAR Sports may not be able to offload the 10 to 15 per cent inventory of ad spots it was reserving to sell at a premium for the semi-final and final matches. This could translate into a Rs 20 crore to Rs 25 crore loss. ESPN STAR Sports executives declined to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, film exhibitor PVR Cinemas is also in trouble, having acquired the in-theatre telecast rights for the tournament for which it has to pay ESPN STAR Sports Rs 50,000 per match, per screen, irrespective of whether it sells tickets or not.

"Attendance was extremely low in the six theatres in which we broadcast the T20 match on Sunday. However, we will continue to telecast the remaining matches, since there is no compelling Bollywood movie lined up till June 21," said Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemedia.

According to overnight ratings agency aMap, the India-England match on June 14 recorded a rating of 4.8 per cent on STAR Cricket, lower than the India-West Indies tie on June 12 that fetched a rating of 5.2 per cent, the highest so far in the current edition of the T20 World Cup.

Ashish Sinha