‘If Pushed To A Decision, I’d Say Argentina’

Updated: May 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
Only five days to go before the world’s greatest soccer event begins, and even as all eyes are set on Korea and Japan, here in India, it is Ten Sports that has become the talk of the town. The exclusive telecast rights holder for the tournament in India, this recently launched Dubai channel is making sure that it enters every Indian household via the World Cup, says Peter Hutton, vice-president, Programming & Events, in an e-mail interview with Rajkumar Leishemba. Excerpts from the interview:

You have pulled off a coup by getting the exclusive rights for the World Cup telecasts in India. How do you plan to strengthen your presence here with this event
The World Cup has certainly proved a huge aid to our distribution efforts. We are in close to 15 million homes now just a month after our launch. Remarkable for any channel, let alone a pay channel.

How would your World Cup programming differ from the current format Are there any special plans charted out to increase your viewership
Having watched the World Cup in India the last time the event occurred, I’m very happy to be able to say that all the 64 games will be live (other than the eight that have simultaneous kick-offs). We will also create a special show every night, called Today At The World Cup, which will allow Indian viewers to watch all the highlights of each day’s action at prime time. The quality of the coverage planned on site is remarkable with cameras catching every conceivable action, and we will add to that with a studio team of analysts that includes former England World Cup star Gary Stevens and India world cup captain Baichung Bhutia.

Till now, many cable operators are not carrying your channel and the likelihood of a good number of households missing your World Cup telecasts is imminent. What are the steps you have taken to tackle this problem
Actually, I think the situation on cable operators is changing day by day. It has been great to see Asianet, Hathaway, Incable, Siticable and Wincable all coming on board in the last week in various locations. Our distribution partners are certainly out there talking to every cable operator and we are very confident that we will be in the majority of cable homes before the start of the competition. It’s certainly reaching the point where you will be very unlucky if your cable operator hasn’t signed up to Ten Sports.

A common complaint against your channel is the poor picture quality received here. Have you taken any steps to address this issue
I certainly haven’t heard that—tell me which is the cable operator and I’ll follow up.

Are there any chances of subletting your telecast rights to other channels
We have just completed an agreement with Rupavahini, the Sri Lankan state broadcaster, and there will be broadcast of the pictures on terrestrial broadcasters in the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. The only terrestrial broadcaster in the area with which there is no agreement as yet is Doordarshan. The negotiation is still on with DD.

What is the target revenue that you aim to get from this event
As much as possible!

On a personal note, how will you spend your time during the World Cup Will it be business as usual or are you going to glue yourself to your TV screen
The standing joke in the office is that I only bought the World Cup to make sure that I could watch every game. I worked at the 1994 World Cup in the US and worked with Doordarshan during the 1998 World Cup. This time round, I’ll be producing the nightly highlights programme at Ten Sports and then going as a fan to the semi-final and final as my summer holiday! I was due to be working at the World Cup as part of the TWI team producing the pre-game shows. So I’m glad that I still get there somehow.

What are your favourite teams and which team do you think will win the World Cup Any team that you think will be a dark horse Who is your favourite player
I think the beauty of this event is that it is very open. While you always presume that a European team will win if the event is staged in Europe or a South American team if the event is staged in a hotter climate, this time round, it could be any one of six or seven countries.

I’d love to say England, but I think the injury problems that they are suffering means they could even exit in the first round. If pushed to a decision, then I’d say Argentina, but I wouldn’t put any money on that!