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Overview 2006: Sports channels – Cricket, non-cricket and some more cricket

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Overview 2006: Sports channels – Cricket, non-cricket and some more cricket

The talks of non-cricket in 2006 might have increased from previous years, but the name of the game in the genre was cricket in terms of performance. That, plus legal cases, acquiring stakes, bidding and new entrants pretty much kept the action high in the domain.

The year in a manner of speaking belonged to Ten Sports with 2006 opening to high numbers coming from the Allianz Cup (India cricket), despite a dirty feed aired on the DD Network. The next clear player in the genre was ESPN, followed by STAR Sports, Zee Sports and DD Sports – in that order.

Where the sports channels were living life with business as usual in the first quarter, the big movement of the genre came in the form of Nimbus winning the BCCI rights after some fierce bidding in February 2006. The player chose Hindi mass channel Sahara One to telecast the first series from the BCCI stadium and the sports channels didn’t see much benefits.

An interesting moment came in March, which saw a jump in the ESPN graph when the most spoken about ODI in recent times – South Africa vs Australia – aired on the channels and saw eight records tumble and, needless to say, one of the highest TVRs for a non-India cricket match.

More of bidding bouts were seen in April when Zee Telefilms beat Nimbus to win the global overseas media rights for international cricket matches played by India in neutral venues (non-ICC member countries).

April was an interesting month on the programming front as well with Ten Sports playing an unprecedented card by airing sports movies in April and May – not a steep hike in shares but enough numbers to keep the channel on high ground in the period with the exception of one week that skyrocketed Zee Sports’ numbers. Reason: The Indo-Pak cricket series played in Dubai which was aired on the channel.

Nonetheless, good news was awaiting Ten Sports in May when the Supreme Court ruled in the channel’s favour on the India-West Indies series (cricket again, by the way) restraining DD from telecasting the series.

While all this was happening on one hand, other players in the sports genre like Zee Sports, ESPN and STAR Sports were talking a lot of non-cricket – motor racing, tennis, hockey, UEFA Champions League and a lot of football. But the news making bits in the period was Nimbus announcing its intention to launch channels to house its newly acquired properties and Zee Sports getting a piece of the cricketing pie with the DLF Cup.

The May-June period saw Ten Sports raking in the numbers from the India-West Indies series, however, ESPN, too, had its moments of glory with the FIFA World Cup 2006 keeping the nation spellbound. In fact, even the ending of the India-West Indies cricket series had to take a backseat to this football mega event. For once soccer beat cricket in India.

The following weeks saw life return to normal in terms of ratings on the sports scene – Ten Sports led and ESPN, STAR Sports, Zee Sports and DD Sports followed in that order until September. The month saw Zee Sports taking a lead in the genre thanks to the DLF Cup – did we mention that was cricket?

October saw the dynamics change to some extent with the entrance of a new player. Nimbus launched its 24x7 cricket channel – Neo Sports – on October 1, 2006. In the second week itself, Neo Sports was the highest rated channel, thanks to the Challenger Series.

The glory might have been for a week only, but it motivated Neo Sports enough to launch its second channel, Neo Sports Plus, with a focus on non-cricket sports in November 2006. But the big news in November was Zee Telefilms managing a coup, acquiring 50 per cent in Ten Sports.

ESPN chanced on some ratings glory with the India-South Africa series in November. Despite the terrible form of the Indian team and unfavourable weather conditions, the channel was the lead in the domain in this period. Media planners nonetheless did question the credibility of cricket as an investment property, but that didn’t make much of a difference to players who were bidding for the ICC rights.

The year ended with a bang with ESPN-STAR Sports “getting back into the game” bagging the broadcast rights for all ICC events for an eight-year period from 2007 to 2015.

To sum it up for the sports genre in 2006 it was cricket, non-cricket and some more cricket. What will 2007 be like – take a guess.


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