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Ten Cricket priced at Rs 35, banks on SA series for big push
MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) has priced Ten Cricket at Rs 35.45 and is banking on the India-South Africa series to push the distribution of its newly launched cricket channel across cable networks and DTH service providers.

Ten Cricket, which is currently simulcasting the India-Sri Lanka-New Zealand tri-series, will stand on its own leg after the tournament gets over on 28 August.

"We will have three months to seed the boxes before the South Africa series starts. That is good enough time to get the connectivity up," says Zeel sports business CEO Atul Pande.

India will play three Tests, five ODIs and one T20 match against South Africa in December, an itinerary that gives the channel enough spread to push distribution across networks.

"South Africa is an important series for us as the oponent is big. The length of the series (21 days of live cricket) is also attractive. And the matches will be played on prime time viewing hours," says Pande.

Ten Cricket will also telecast domestic cricket from South Africa.

But wouldn't the India-Sri Lanka series have been a sweet spot for driving the channel's distribution?

"We were constrained by the approvals. Given the time frame we had, we put the channel up for testing. We decided to run a simulcast broadcast on Ten Sports and Ten Cricket for the Tri-Series. We are already on Dish TV and have signed up several multi-system operators (MSOs) for carriage," says Pande.

Several MSOs spoke to said that there would be several rounds of negotiations as they would have to sign up with a new channel without getting any extra content. "Earlier, Zee was showing the content across two channels. Now they will be distributing the same content across three channels," they said.

Pande did not want to comment on the plans to buy fresh rights for live telecast of international cricket matches.

"Our initial focus is on the trade launch which we kicked off with the Tri-series. We have got a good response. The customer launch of Ten Cricket will happen in the South Africa series," said Pande.

Ten Cricket will have 55 days of live cricket this calendar year. There will be five Test matches, 25 ODIs and 5 T20s.

Pande is confident that Ten Cricket will reach 6.5 million homes and the network strength will come into play. "We are a three-channel sports network and have a comprehensive sports package. Ten Sports is WWE-led and has attractive non-live properties. Zee Sports will have premium football content," said Pande.

Pande believes launching a cricket-specific channel is the right strategy. "We were under-priced on the distribution platform as compared to our competitors. So there was room for us to launch Ten Cricket," said Pande.


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