|Soccer beats cricket on the Indian TV pitch.|
|by Gulu Ezekiel|
|Jun 24, 2006|
The anti-cricket brigade in India is currently
celebrating the much-trumpeted findings of a sports TV
channel that their ratings for the World Cup soccer
in Germany has far outstripped that of their rival
channel which is telecasting India’'s rather dismal
tour of the West Indies.
There are some fairly obvious reasons for this trend
that to me however looks like a one-off phenomenon.
First and foremost, the timings of the two events are
in stark contrast. The World Cup in the group stages
had matches being telecast at 6.30 p.m. (prime time)
and then at 12.30 a.m. which meant that many could
stay awake at least till half-time of the second
Watching cricket from the West Indies has always posed
a problem for Indian fans. The matches start at 7.30
p.m. and often go past 3.30 a.m.
This situation may be even direr during the World Cup
cricket to be staged in the Caribbean for the first
time from next March. With all matches slated to be
day/night affairs, the starts will be midnight or
later. It will take a very hardy fan indeed to be able
to stay up through the night and into the time of day
when he normally gets ready to leave for office.
One can therefore expect that viewership figures not
just in India but the whole of Asia, —the region that
drives cricket revenue as all know by now, —to be pretty
low during the World Cup.
The other big factor weighing in favour of the World
Cup soccer this time around is the low standard of
cricket being played by both the West Indies and India
in the current tour.
This was true during the ODI
series as well in which India were trounced 4-1, again
turning away viewers from the ongoing Test series.
Sachin Tendulkar'’s absence, —apart from his ubiquitous
presence during the infuriating ad breaks, —also has to
be factored in.
The football on the other hand has been pretty
entertaining with lots of goals and excitement and
with the media, —TV and print, —going the whole hog in the
run-up, the Indian public has been swept away in a
wave of soccer mania.
Perhaps if the Indian bowlers had got that elusive
last wicket in the first Test and if the fourth day’'s
play had not been washed out in the second, plenty
more interest would have been generated. WICB, which had a cumulative loss of $14 million at the end of 2005, needs both the weather and the game to sparkle in order to sustain the interest of the Indian audience.
Ironically, the channel which has bagged the football
rights this time was the pioneering 24-hours sports
channel in India and for years enjoyed a monopoly when
it came to Indian cricket till it’s place was usurped
by a bunch of upstart channels.
While all these channels have always made a beeline
for the rights to telecast the Indian cricket team’s
matches, there are lessons to be learnt from the
In that sense what is happening right now on Indian
television is not a bad thing at all. It might teach a
lesson or two as well to those who run Indian cricket
that too much of a good thing can sometimes backfire.