Sports genre in India going through positive winds of change; here’s why

By: |
October 11, 2016 6:56 AM

With the Indian women contingent winning at Rio Olympics to various sporting leagues finding traction, the sports genre in India is going through positive winds of change. Even as sports related marketing remains at a nascent stage, it is only set to evolve with audiences asking for non-cricket properties

In a country of 1.2 billion people and 800+ channels, the competition to attract viewership is tough. But the one thing that unites the nation, no matter which demographic they belong to or which dialect they speak, is sports.

With 575 million people having access to television in India, it is the second-largest market for broadcast media after China. And with the success of IPL (Indian Premier League), many franchise-based sports leagues have emerged which has worked very well for the games. Also, with India performing well in individual sports like badminton, tennis, shooting, etc there are more options to consider.

The other reason is that on TV, the width of every game has increased. For example, football lovers can now choose from many leagues to watch — English, Spanish, German, Italian, or even the ISL (Indian Super League). 2016 has been a revolutionary year so far in terms of consumption of sports — till date, we have already seen five sporting events — ICC World T20, IPL, Pro Kabaddi League (Season 3 and 4) and Rio Olympics which witnessed viewership in excess of 200 million. With this, the advertiser interest has also increased manifold not only on-air, but on-ground as well.

The two broadcasting leaders in the genre — Star India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) — have had an immense contribution in the genre’s growth. Both Star and Sony have increased the number of events within a sport they show, with multiple channels across multiple language feeds. On August 31, SPN acquired Ten Sports from Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) for R2,600 crore — a move which ups the ante for the network.

Now consider how out of the 11 operational leagues, nine were launched between 2013 and 2016. And with a large part of the year yet to unfold with upcoming properties like 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, BrandWagon looks at the genre as the games unfold.

Growth in viewership

“Media is a powerful medium and for the business of sports to multiply, it needs the support of TV, which is the big daddy to create ‘heroes’,” Sam Balsara, founder, chairman and MD, Madison World had said at the recently concluded CII Summit on the business of sports and entertainment held in Mumbai.

With the advent of multiple leagues, broadcasters are vying for fresh properties to acquire, and in turn, are going about increasing their portfolio of TV channels as well as digital platforms. Between 2014 and 2015, sports viewership in India grew by 30% on the back of various sporting events including the ICC World Cup, IPL, PKL and ISL, indicating India’s move towards becoming a multi-sport nation, as per the KPMG CII The Business of Sports report.

Of course, cricketing events haven’t lost their sheen; the report goes on to state that the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015 was watched by 635 million Indians (before India lost the semi-final match) and IPL Season 9 garnered 347 million views — a 22% growth over the previous season. But other sports earned high viewership too. For instance, in its inaugural year (2014), about 435 million viewers tuned in to watch PKL and 429 million watched ISL. These numbers are comparable to IPL’s viewership of 552 million in the same year.

One of the reasons for the proliferation of the sports genre, according to experts, is the upsurge in female viewership. Sports viewership is no longer dominated by males, as females and children comprise a significant portion of the viewership pie. The ninth season of IPL had 41% of female viewers (including rural); 57% of the total 429 million ISL first season viewers were women and children. Similarly, this demographic accounted for about half of the total viewership in the second season of PKL.

“For a sport to be popular, media reach is important and well-connected regional reach apart from the packaging has increased acceptability of various sports amongst various groups of viewers,” asserts Jaideep Ghosh, partner and head (transport, leisure and sports), KPMG India.

These trends clearly show that broadcasters and sponsors need to modify their strategies to cater to the increasing number of female viewers. A few advertisers and sponsors have already started doing so. For example, online lingerie store Zivame tied up with U Mumba, a PKL team.

Regional games packaged in interesting formats have been successful in garnering rural viewership as well. Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India (week 41, 2015 to week 7, 2016) reported that rural contribution to the number of impressions was as high as 45% in the sports genre.

“Regional feeds for broadcasting sports properties have also contributed towards the growth of viewership. Consider the initiative by SPN in India with Bengali feed on Sony Aath for the 2014 FIFA World Cup for example,” provides Rajesh Kaul, president, distribution and sports business, Sony Pictures

Networks India.

The advertiser’s bonanza

With proliferation in sports viewership, traditional large advertising categories on sports, like telecom and auto, continue their heavy spends. Newer categories like e-commerce as well as FMCG have increased spends substantially. It needs to be noticed that spends are not only in the form of pure advertising, but brands are also now buying franchises to further strengthen their association with the genre. For example, Hero Honda associated with ISL as title sponsor to garner visibility throughout the year. The overall kitty of sports monetisation has moved up dramatically in the last three years. Clearly, corporates have realised that a casual relationship with sports is not going to help.

“Till some years back, channels were highly dependent on Indian cricket for a lion’s share of revenues. The problem now is that there is so much of cricket that the craze for the game has gone down and subsequently, the average ratings have responded accordingly,” opines

Premjeet Sodhi, COO, Initiative Media. “Furthermore, the format of the games and the marketing blitz created around them by the channel have made them attractive to viewers and advertisers.”

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