Premier League debut puts focus on pricy cricket pact


Bollywood glamour, Washington Redskins cheerleaders and fast-paced cricket combined to christen Sony Entertainment Television's $1.03 billion broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League during the weekend.

By paying the highest amount ever for the right to air the sport, which is wildly popular in India, Sony's SET MAX channel outbid rivals ESPN-STAR Sports in negotiations with the sport's governing body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Bollywood talent lead several of the consortia backing the league's eight city-based teams, including the Kolkatta Knight Riders, backed by actor Shah Rukh Khan, and the Daredevils, backed by Akshay Kumar, who soon will star in Warner Bros.' Bollywood debut "Chandni Chowk to China."

Industry observers said that the new SET MAX outing could repeat a time-tested Bollywood-plus-cricket formula.

"SET can earn at least $23 million in advertising in the first season, with an average 10-second ad selling for $5,500-$6,000," said N.P. Sathyamurthy, president of Mumbai-based advertising agency Lintas Media Group's Insight Division.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the network already might have signed up double that amount, reaching $50 million.

The NFL cheerleaders from the U.S. capital were flown in by liquor group United Breweries to cheer on Bangalore's Royal Challengers, and the league's title sponsorship went to New Delhi-based real estate conglomerate DLF Limited for five years for $50 million.

The teams include top cricketing talent from India and around the world. Contracts for those player were auctioned to the team owners in late January, netting the BCCI $724 million, almost double the $400 million minimum base price.