WSG's grip on startling Asian football TV audiences

It would seem outrageous, commented Television Point, that Indian TV networks should be bidding some ridiculous amounts for TV rights to Indian football, a sport where India is ranked 140th in the world. "Also importantly, almost at the same time of the news breaking that Indian channels were bidding huge sums, there filtered in news, hardly reported in Indian media, that the World Sport Group ... had signed a seven-year-deal worth US $200 million with the Asian Football Federation. That deal is to run through till 2012."

"Getting Indian rights first, and then looking at Indian footprint rights for Asian football from WSG, would make for an ideal package for any sports channel," Television Point observed. "While Zee has finally launched Zee Sports, the buzz is that NDTV could also be planning a sports channel with a foreign collaboration."

A recent set of figures made available about Asian football, showed that the Asian Cup 2004 final between China and Japan smashed viewing records in China, the world’s most coveted market. It broke records of even the 2002 FIFA World Cup final, as it became the most watched single sports event in the history of Chinese television. Figures showed a staggering 43.1%of people watching television in China at peak time during the final were tuned in to CCTV to watch China play in their first Asian Cup final in 20 years.

These figures on a nationwide scale mean over 250 million people saw China lose 1-3 to Japan. Put that alongside the audience highs of 24 million for the final of Euro 2004 and substantially lower figures for other major European football league telecasts, and you get the picture.

Now come to the statistics released by the AFC vis-à-vis fans at the stadium for the AFC Cup this year. Even though Indian clubs did not make a huge impact in AFC, fans turned out in big numbers overtaking those in other countries. AFC figures show that 52,000 fans turned up to watch East Bengal and Dempo Sports Club in action, and 30,000 fans turned up to see East Bengal play Muktijoddha Sangsad of Bangladesh at the Salt Lake Stadium in March. East Bengal showed its strong fan-base with over 40,000 loyally attending all their three encounters. This constituted 25% of the total attendance for all the stages of the group matches, which stood at 156,000, according to the AFC.

Meanwhile, the Indian Football Association and Total Sports Entertainment India are arranging the tender for the telecast rights of West Bengal football for a period of next five years.