Cricket for the cricket fans and in between entertainment for those in the household who don't care much for cricket. A sure shot success formula - Two in one! Considering the fact that it is mostly single TV households in India and Cricket is such a big craze, it should have worked. But it seems to have alienated the hard-core cricket lovers, as well as not provided enough entertainment to those who don't care much for cricket.
SET Max is airing live telecast of ICC Champions Trophy from Sri Lanka and mixing it with a two hour pre and post match show – Extraaa Innings. One of the things that is disenchanting viewers beyond metros is only English commentary on SET MAX. In smaller towns people are far more interested in Hindi commentary than in English. The channel seems to be losing out to DD on that front. When asked if the channel was considering changing the commentary to a mix of Hindi and English, replied Rajat Jain, Vice President, "It's most definitely worth a thought. We'll take a decision on this after the ICC Champions Trophy Sri Lanka 2002 is over." Does it mean that channel would change the commentary to a combination of English and Hindi in the next world cup? Well, we think so!
However, the channel claims that the in between entertainment it is presenting along with the cricket matches is the result of research and a hit among children and women. Says Jain, "We did a quick dipstick in the market, and we learnt that women and kids, especially the uninitiated amongst them, would like the kind of entertainment we're providing in Extraaa Innings. We believe women are interested in this kind of entertainment, and we have received several positive mails and a lot of feedback from many quarters for several things." A Poonam Dhillon'(who?) as a celebrity guest honestly does not look like cool entertainment!
Jain does agree that reactions to the programme have been mixed. And the channel plans to bring about changes on the basis of responses it has got. Says he, "There have been mixed reactions, and we are tweaking the entertainment mix as we go along. MAX being a mass family entertainment channel, we are consciously targeting not just the purist but also the three or four other family members in his home!"
He vehemently asks, "We are a mass channel, a family entertainment channel, and women and kids are a strong majority of our constituents amongst viewers. How can we ignore them?" But are women and children checking out that entertainment? More so on the weekdays when the avid Cricket fan is not at home watching TV but tuning to it on All India Radio?
Looking at the marketing side, the live telecast has been promoted heavily through print ads and hoardings. That, when cricket is such a major pull among Indian audience. According to Jain, "Cricket, and especially the best of ICC Cricket, doesn't need mega promotions, but we were promoting the fact that it will now air on MAX, and to expand the viewer base."
But then why did the channel suddenly feel the need to stop all print advertising. If the industry rumours are to be believed, SET MAX has stopped promoting the live telecast through print ads as RoI was not good enough. Jain disagrees, " As for revenues generated the response from the market has been as expected, and we don't discuss revenues so you honestly can't expect me to reveal figures here! And there was no need for a print campaign during the live telecasts, because all eyes are anyways following the telecasts. No print ads have been cancelled, everything is according to business plan. We have a strong on-air campaign and there is a strong outdoor campaign on.
All the eyes, specially of the media planners and advertisers would be on TRPs - and if the channel does not get good TRPS this time around, selling the world cup sponsorship might be issue.