MAX, as is known, has the exclusive telecast rights of the ICC Knockout Cricket Challenge, which would be aired from 10th to 26th September 2004. The channel is extremely upbeat about the financial prospects involved, and is currently in the process of negotiating with some key brands. Sponsorships have not yet been announced. Says Rajat Jain, Executive Vice President, Set Max, "We will start from the point where we left off, in other words the ICC Cricket World Cup South Africa 2003. If anything, our cricket packaging and presentation will be bigger and better this time around. We will try and bring in the best kind of presentation and treatment of live cricketing action for the sports buffs. We will also make an effort to keep the light entertainment segments, primarily for the out of live segments."
In true MAX tradition, will the Knockout Challenge be served with a dash of Mandira? Jain adds, "We are still in the process of fine tuning the segments and the content mix, we would be willing to share more details on the same once we get closer to the due date. Right now, we are in the process of talks and negotiations with the advertisers and I can assert with full conviction that the response from the advertising community has been excellent. After all, this is the best limited overs cricket that we will be able to view this year."
Was MAX in the bid for the Asia Cup as well? Jain replies, "Naturally. We have always been enthusiastic about noteworthy events, especially when it's related to cricket. We would consider the rights to any top end cricketing event, especially ODI's, given the kind of passion that the game inspires in India. Goes well with our tag line, doesn't it?"
Meanwhile the media community is still speculating over the kind of mileage that the Knockout Challenge would provide. Interestingly, in the entire series comprising of around seventeen matches, only five matches in fact would be played by India. There is a select camp within the media community, which feels that the advertiser is paying through his nose for matches which do not even involve India, just because it all comes as a 'package deal.'
However Hiren Pandit, GM, Mindshare validates MAX's point of view and asserts, "Honestly cricket is cricket, no matter what. And I suppose, MAX will price its offerings differently (matches that involve India and which don't), lesser monies for matches that don't involve India. But it's too early to speculate, since they haven't even announced the sponsorships as yet. Cricket inspires the kind of passion in India, which no Kyunki or Kahaani can hope to deliver. I wouldn't know if they can possibly gain as much mileage as, they did during the World Cup but it is definitely a money making proposition."
With cricket comes clutter. What is the nature of visibility that a brand can hope to get in the endless tirade of advertisements that catwalk through cricket? Manas Mishra, Associate Vice President, Initiative remarks, "Are you kidding? Cricket is the mother of every other programme on television. It generates astounding viewership figures (which go beyond the delivery of any soap), and it is the ultimate tool towards addressing each and every individual in India. Undoubtedly the ICC Knockout Series would be one of the hottest properties for the month of September. It would be an opportunity for brands to mark their space."
Cricket, they say, is a gentleman's game. But there is nothing gentlemanly or staid about the rush of TRP's that MAX is sure to reap, on account of the entire effort. Judging by the words of the planners, the spots ought to be selling like hot cakes. This is again, in line with the 25 per cent growth in revenue, which Set India is targeting in the current fiscal.