Till a couple of weeks ago, there was intense speculation that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez would quit following a run of title-threatening draws. Two fantastic wins, one against Real Madrid and the other against Manchester United, and all that talk has subsided. All is forgiven.
The Barclay’s Premier League is a harsh place to work in. As a manager, Rafa has to continuously deliver results that please the fans and get the team closer and closer to silverware. He needs to get enough money from the club management to buy enough players to have a squad that can perform at the highest levels week after week. He needs the players to deliver, the sponsors to keep supporting, the fans to keep buying merchandise.
Television is no different. Till a few weeks ago, Peter Mukerjea was criticized by the media for almost everything done at INX Media, and The Economic Times was at the forefront of the criticism. In a bizarre turnaround, last Saturday’s ET carried a story suggesting that Peter, who has stepped down from the management of INX Media, was the front-runner to – hold your breath – take over as CEO of the beleaguered Multi Screen Media (that’s Sony Entertainment Television, in case you’ve forgotten) network which according to ET’s amazing report, would merge with INX Media through a complex series of financial juggling acts.
Suddenly he’s good enough to run the company he’s launched and another TV network which is in more than a spot of bother? Huh?
There are lots of media watchers who really don’t watch media. Like Benitez at Liverpool, any CEO at a TV network is under constant pressure. TV heads need funds for programming, for marketing, for distribution – which come when investors continue to have confidence in the management. When the confidence ceases and funds dry up, there is nothing that will happen except what we see at 9X – no new programming, disappearing audiences and advertisers and finally, disappearing revenues.
Imagine Benitez and Liverpool if they didn’t have the funds to buy Fernando Torres…
TV takes time to succeed. Here’s some trivia: it took STAR Plus 330 programs (yes, that’s three hundred and thirty) before they lucked on to Kaun Banega Crorepati which brought them to the number one GEC spot.
That’s many years and lots of money. But Rupert Murdoch backed his team and kept investing as his team made cases for investments.
Which is why Rajesh Kamat and Ashvini Yardi are an astonishing story at Colors. In a few short months, they’re challenging STAR Plus' dominance. If I were to go back to football, it would be like Stoke City threatening Manchester United’s domination in the Premiership, or reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Which brings me to the IPL. While droves of experts have dubbed the IPL Season One a success, I’ve been skeptical. It takes more than a single edition of any sporting event for it to become a brand. For the IPL to become one, all the franchisees of the IPL need their teams to become brands as well.
To give you an analogy, the IPL is like a mall and all the teams are like stores in the mall. It needs the stores to succeed before the IPL succeeds – and it requires the mall owner to worry about the interests of each store owner.
Sadly, this is not what is happening now. The IPL franchisees are now up the creek without a paddle. Will the tournament take place? If so, when? If so, where? Which of the foreign players will come to India if the dates are juggled? Which channel will the matches be telecast on? Will MSM get a stay that results in no broadcast at all?
Advertisers who had counted on the eyeballs that the IPL promised to deliver must be a worried lot. They had banked on the eyeballs to see the communication that will convince the consumer to buy products and services. No eyeballs, no sales.
And there are a few thousand crores waiting for Lalit Modi to sort out the mess he has created.
It’s like customers queuing up in front of a mall with bagfuls of money. And suddenly, they learn that the stores might be moving elsewhere, that the goods they planned to buy might not be available at all, that the stores might not open when they expect them to.
They can’t wait forever. Perhaps they’ll go to other stores.
Like the good ol’ reliable GECs.
STAR Plus, Colors and Zee, you can start salivating.
Meanwhile, I’ll check ET on Saturday and figure out what Peter’s up to. Taking over the IPL as soon as Lalit Modi quits?