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Seeking to score a goal

Swarup Chakraborty  |  Mumbai 

Cartoon Network, 9XM, and are among those channels gearing up to cash-in on the FIFA soccer mania.

As the world gears up for kicks and head butts between players of 32 nations in South Africa, television (TV) channels too are working to increase their eyeballs and brand image by piggybacking on the buzz surrounding the which begins on June 11.

may command the highest number of viewers but the upcoming FIFA World Cup, too, is expected to have over 110 million viewers in India — almost double from 2006 when the generated a cumulative reach of 55-60 million viewers.

9XM: The hopes its on-air ‘dudes’ will be soaked in FIFA fervour which might find resonance with audiences thereby strengthening the brand

BBC: The news network will not only have content on FIFA but also showcase highlights online. It will also have a programme where fans will air their views about the tournament in a bid to develop better brand association

Cartoon Network: Online game ‘toon football’ is expected to attract newer audiences even as it increases visibility and brand recognition among gamers who might not be animation watchers

AXN: It’s the exclusive broadcasting partner of the Kick-off Celebration Concert in India.

The concert will feature musical performances by international artistes like Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas and Shakira.

While advertisers in India are expected to spend around Rs 180 crore during the telecast of the 55 matches on ESPN Star Sports, some other channels — in the music, news and animation genres — are working on programming content around football. Channels like Cartoon Network, and news network have planned to cash-in on the soccer fever by on-air, on-ground and online activities.

Cartoon Network, for instance, has started a new digital initiative, Toon Football, where users can make their own teams and play virtual soccer. “We started this initiative in March this year as sports was a new genre for us. We feel that it was an opportune time for as we are targeting a user base of half a million,” says Benjamin Grubbs, regional director, Turner Interactive.

The channel has monetised the online venture as consumers can buy coins for upgrading to the next level of the game. A fee is levied on the coins which consumers can pay for through their credit cards. “The number of our loyal consumers has already crossed 2,50,000,” says Grubbs.

will have on-air content and is slated to do on-ground activities to create further awareness and brand building. “We will have on-ground activities in multiple cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata where 9XM goodies will be given to soccer fans. We are going to spend a substantial amount of money on these activities,” says Amar Tidke, head of programming, 9XM.

“In our on-air strategy, the channel will wear a FIFA look where the 9XM dudes — Chhote, Bade, Betel Nuts and Bheegi Billi — will wear soccer T-shirts. We are also exploring the possibility of developing a soccer game online,” adds Tidke.

Leading news broadcaster has also lined up content surrounding the soccer mania. Over the course of the tournament, BBC World Service will have a special daily multimedia show which will let fans air their views. will be offering video and interactive content online.

In the IT space, Limited (rebranded as Mahindra Satyam) expects to garner close to $20 million (little over Rs 90 crore) from the game. The Hyderabad-headquartered IT outsourcing provider is the first Indian company to sign with FIFA, as a sponsor and official IT provider for the 2010 and 2014 editions of the game. As part of the deal, the company has developed an event solutions system which will enrich the experience of all fans arriving in the stadia to watch the matches. The company will be managing 250,000 accreditations and 130,000 volunteers, besides distributing over 3 million tickets online.

> Over 110 million Indians are expected to watch the soccer games

> Advertisers in India are expected to spend around Rs 180 crore during the telecast of the matches

> FIFA World Cup ratings stand at 9.1 — comparable to top-ranking soaps and one-day matches

> 95% advt inventory has been sold to players like Vodafone, Airtel DTH, Nokia, Samsung and Hero Honda

Soccer viewership has been on the rise in India. The 2002 FIFA World Cup in India garnered ratings as high as 9.1 television ratings (TVRs) — among males, 15+, Sec A, B & C, Cable and Satellite households — which is comparable to top performing soaps and one-day matches (ODIs). The Euro 2004 continued the growth and had a cumulative audience reach of 32.3 million viewers.

As channels employ these strategies to increase the number of eyeballs, ESPN Star Sports, the official broadcaster of FIFA World Cup has already sold 95 per cent of its advertisement inventory to advertisers such as Vodafone, Airtel DTH, Nokia, Samsung and Hero Honda. According to industry estimates, the sports broadcast genre is expected to fetch around Rs 2,500 crore this year from the Indian Premier League, T20 World Cup, Asia Cup and the upcoming FIFA World Cup, among other sporting events.

First Published: Thu, June 03 2010. 00:06 IST