Kunaldas Gupta, CEO, SonySet Max pays Rs 228 crore a year for telecast of ICC cricket (2002-7) Will show: Three Champions Trophies and two World CupsJune 2001. Harish Thawani, co-chairman of World Sport Nimbus (WSN), was on a Eurotrain drawing into London’s Waterloo station when his cell phone rang.It was,Kunaldas Gupta, CEO, SonySet Max pays Rs 228 crore a year for telecast of ICC cricket (2002-7) Will show: Three Champions Trophies and two World Cups June 2001. Harish Thawani, co-chairman of World Sport Nimbus (WSN), was on a Eurotrain drawing into London’s Waterloo station when his cell phone rang.It was his partner Seamus O’Brien calling him from a Champs Elysees hotel in Paris, telling him that their company, with NewsCorp’s backing, had won the bid to market five years of ICC cricket on TV. The battle was tough: on one side were Chase Carey, the then co-COO of NewsCorp, Thawani and O’Brien. On the other Vijay Jindal, then CEO of Zee, Mark McCormack, chairman, IMG, and Bill Sinrich, MD of TWI. All of them were wearing sharp suits and sharper ties. WSN had bid $550 million (Rs 2,670 crore). Zee TV, in association with IMG and TWI, had offered $660 million. Zee TV was planning a sports channel and hoped to drive its launch with the most elite property in cricket. But ICC was looking for more than just money. It was looking for a vision for the sport as well as marketing ability. Thawani’s celebratory party at the Hilton was definitely on course. The Zee team had to abandon its ambitious venture. But another network, launched in 2000, was dreaming equally big.Positioning itself as a movie and events network, set Max paid Global Cricket Corporation (GCC)-a NewsCorp firm which subsequently took over WSN-a reported Rs 1,140 crore for the rights for India.advertisementWhich means Set Max is paying the GCC Rs 11 crore every day to air 101 days of international A-class cricket. Every year, ESPN, Set Max and even the notoriously stingy dd pay a collective Rs 475 crore to air cricket to an estimated 400 million Indian viewers (of a global total of 800 million).If you’re not reeling already, take this. Every 10 seconds Indian cricketers were on screen during the recent tri series in England, they were making Rs 1.5 lakh in ad money for ESPN-Star Sports, which saw its TRP ratings boom to 19 during the July 13 final, beating even the daily weepies.Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, NewscorpESPN-Star Sports pays Rs 190 crore a year for telecast in India of international cricket in Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, Zimbabwe (2002-8), Bangladesh (2002-4) and West Indies (2004-8) K.S. Sarma CEO, Prasar BharatiDD pays BCCI Rs 54 crore a year to telecast international and domestic cricket (1999-2004). Will show: Champions Trophy and World Cup 2003Every day India steps out to play an international match in India, they make Rs 1.7 crore for the BCCI, thanks to a contract with dd which contributes 48 per cent to the BCCI’s annual income of Rs 105 crore. India may be the world’s No. 8 team in Test cricket and No. 6 team in ODIs, but on TV it is Hero No. 1 (who it must be said doesn’t need extra assistance from Ruby Bhatia or Maria Goretti).Old India hand Peter Hutton, vice-president of the Dubai-based ten Sports (whose parent company owned by Sheikh Ahmed Bukhatir hosts four cricket events a year in Sharjah and Tangiers), offers a marker. In 1994-99, he says, dd paid bcci about Rs 8 crore a year for international cricket in India.The deal for 1999-2004 saw a six fold rise, to Rs 54 crore annually. To think till the Hero Cup in 1993, because of dd’s monopoly, the Indian cricket board had never earned revenue from TV.With TV rights now contributing as much as 65 per cent to the global cricket economy, is it any wonder that India appears to be a cricketing superpower, regardless of its performance?Even then the set Max deal was a leap of faith and pocketbook. It paid an estimated Rs 380 crore for non-exclusive rights to the World Cup 2003, an enormous rise from around Rs 5 5 crore that Star Sports paid for the satellite and terrestrial rights of the 1999 World Cup.An industry source estimates that on an average a good game earns an ad revenue of Rs 5 crore a day. But as Rajat Jain, executive vice-president, set Max, says, “Life is not only about advertising.” Ad revenue is growing at 15-25percentayear but revenue from subscriber fees is rising at more than 200 per cent annually.At the end of day’s play, India is a dominant market-Sky in the UK is unlikely to be paying more than $ 1 million for the Champions Trophy, whereas Sony is paying $15 million. But TV revenue from India is not as high in Test matches as in ODIs.Nor is its status unchanging. Says Thawani: “Shares change as markets become more vibrant. Don’t forget in 1996, England was the No. 1 TV market for cricket. Also, a lot changed because of the centralised marketing by ice.”advertisementIndeed. The ice has prime public enemy Jagmohan Dalmiya to thank for the centralised sale of TV rights: he lobbied to move the sale away from country boards to the ice. Result: the 90:10 split between TV and sponsorship in the 1990s has changed to 66:33.Not that this has stopped the great cricket TV boom. Even commentators have become stars. Sunil Gavaskar, for instance, makes Rs 1.9 crore a year in an exclusive contract with ESPN-Star Sports. The competition for other stars is equally fierce: ESPN-Star Sports signed on Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador for Rs 3.5 crore a year while set Max paid Kapil Dev Rs 1.75 crore for five years.So who’s the asli badshah of Indian cricket? Kapil or Sachin? Nah. Indian TV.