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
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
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
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.