India’s performance in the recent Olympics might have been dismal, but there has been a definite increase in the variety of sports events gaining popularity, not to mention viewership on TV. Rural India stands out here, as sports like kabaddi and wrestling are getting popular.
“Rural India has definitely shown a great appetite for sports. An average of 45% of weekly sports viewership comes from rural India. For sports that have very strong Indian roots, such as kabaddi and wrestling, there is a favourable trend in rural markets,” says Rajesh Kaul, president, distribution & sports business, Sony Pictures Networks India.
For example, 64% of ratings for both Pro Kabaddi League Season 3 and Pro Wrestling League Season 1 came from rural India. Cricket, too, finds favour amongst rural audiences, with 44% of the ICC WT20 in 2016, as well as 39% of IPL 2016 viewership coming from rural masses. As India ventures more and more into domestic leagues, broadcasters see a tremendous opportunity residing in rural India.
Star India (which has 10 channels devoted to the sports genre) and Sony have launched regional feeds of sports events like FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, Indian Premier League (IPL), Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), and Indian Super League on their respective channels.
Star Sports CEO Nitin Kukreja says, “We have always believed that cricket can become even bigger than it is and have backed that belief by introducing quality Hindi commentary, as well as new events like the recently concluded Tamil Nadu Premier League.”
However, one cannot disagree with the fact that sports broadcast in India is significantly dependent on advertising revenues, unlike in other markets that are subscription driven.
Advertising on sports in India has shown strong growth with cricket accounting for the lion’s share. According to a GroupM report, 2015 saw sports accounting for 10.4% of the total media spend, which is a 12.3% increase from the previous calendar year, and is slated to grow further in 2016.
Till some years back, the channels were highly dependent on cricket for the lion’s share of their revenues.
“Otherwise, they were equivalent to being seen as ‘youth-oriented frequency channels’. The problem now is that there is so much of cricket that the craze for the game has come down and subsequently, the average ratings have come down. As a result of this, the cost per rating points have gone up,” points out Premjeet Sodhi, COO, Initiative Media. The channels have to contend with this and have to devise strategies to ensure good viewership for their marquee events and keep ROIs attractive for advertisers.
“There is still considerable potential for growth. Ad rates and overall ad spends in India still lag considerably behind global averages and we remain very optimistic about this market,” adds Kaul optimistically, adding that sports will continue to be a priority with advertisers. The pricing on marquee properties has been on a steady growth of 10-15% every year.