Media firm Viacom18 has said it is not keen on entering the sports broadcasting space in the short-term as the country does not have a strong sporting culture and the cost of telecast rights for cricket is very high.
“Sport is not a genre we are looking at in the short-term. Sports as a genre is very capital intensive. It has a very high gestation from the point of view of returns. Moreover, India is not a sporting nation,” Viacom 18 group chief executive Sudhanshu Vats told PTI.
Pointing out that international cricket is the only sport that has viewership in the country, he said, “There is no viewership for domestic cricket and the acquisition cost of broadcast rights for international cricket is sky-rocketing. So the maths doesn’t add up for us (for the short term).”
He, however, admitted that there is a big viewership for the shorter formats of cricket, with strong viewership for IPL, one-day internationals and some other T20 formats “but the viewership just collapses when you go to a five-day test match”.
It can be recalled that media conglomerate Star India had bagged a six-year broadcast and digital rights of the international cricket matches at home and domestic events like Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and the Irani Trophy in 2012 for Rs 3,851 crore.
Multi Screen Media (that operates sports channels Sony Six and Sony Kix) and World Sports Group had paid a whopping Rs 8,200 crore for a nine-year broadcast deal for Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2009 running through to 2017.
According to a recent FICCI-KPMG report, sports viewership in the country stood at 276 million in 2014, but the sports genre accounts for only 2.4 per cent of the total television viewership.
The report also noted that the sports viewership in the country is quite low compared to the US and Britain, as on an average, Indians spend only 4 per cent of daily TV viewing time on sports whereas it is nearly 12.5 per cent in the US and the UK.
It observed that the sporting leagues are designed to last for just a couple of months, while many major sporting league seasons last for a longer duration every year.
Viacom 18 is a joint venture between US-based Viacom and Network18.
Last year, in the biggest ever deal in the Indian media sector, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries had acquired control in Network 18 Media & Investments, including its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast for Rs 4,000 crore.