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Zee's ICL scores near duck on debut

Ashish Sinha  |  New Delhi 

Even with cricket stars like Brian Lara, Chris Cairns and Inzamam-Ul-Haq on their side, the poor cable home penetration of the Zee Sports channel translated into poor viewership and advertising for the India Cricket League (ICL), the Essel group-promoted rebel Twenty20 cricket championship that begun on November 30.
The first three Twenty20 matches played on November 30 and December 1 generated peak ratings of only 0.5 on Zee Sports despite aggressive promotions and appearances by film personalities.
According to the online ratings of the first three ICL matches released by aMap, a Mumbai-based television ratings agency, even the combined ratings of all the 25-odd Zee channels for the first hour of the ICL tournament failed to attract significant viewers interest with the average time spent on the channels at eight minutes.
The maximum combined ratings for the first 30 minutes of the third match played on Saturday between Mumbai Champs and Hyderabad Heroes was 1.0. But this was because of the match available across all the 28 Zee network channels. The standalone rating on Zee Sports for this match was 0.2, the aMap report said.
Even the market share captured by Zee Sports was about one per cent of the total cable homes, the aMap report added.
Zee Sports is currently available in not more than 10 million cable homes out of roughly 76 million cable households in the country. It is also absent on Tata Sky, the second-largest direct-to-home (DTH) company reaching around 1.5 million subscribers.
These ratings are the worst in recent times for any important cricket tournament held in this year involving Indian cricketers.
The India-Bangladesh series, after the World Cup debacle earlier this year, generated ratings of 0.5-0.7 in a number of matches on Neo Sports. But due to improved distribution, the current India-Pakistan test match series received an average ratings of over 2.4, sources said.
"Agreed its early days for ICL, but at least the Zee group should improve the cable penetration of Zee Sports if viewers have to watch it for some time at least," a senior media planner for a leading auto and telecom company said.
But senior Zee executives are upbeat. "The fact that ICL is being watched in over 125 countries across the Zee network is a first of its kind. There will be teething problems, but then with time everything will be sorted out and we will have television advertisers by December 5," Ashish Kaul, executive vice president, brand development, Essel group recently told Business Standard.
ICL was announced in April this year by Essel group chairman Subhash Chandra as an alternate to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It has roped in a number of Indian cricketers including Rohan Gavaskar, Dinesh Mongia and international stars like Brian Lara and Inzamam-Ul-Haq to play in the Twenty20 format cricket championship.
ICL was conceived of as a television property for Zee Sports. It attempts a new concept in cricket of a tournament comprising professional clubs with players of different nationalities on the lines of the European soccer tournaments.
It has faced a number of initial problems such as lack of recognition from BCCI and the International Cricket Council, the supreme body for international cricket around the world.

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First Published: Mon, December 03 2007. 00:00 IST