Sony SIX, the official broadcaster of the recently concluded FIFA World Cup 2014, had purchased the rights for Rs 540 crore, which includes the broadcasting rights for two World Cups (FIFA 2014 and FIFA 2018) as well as Euro 2016 tournament. With such a big investment in this property, the channel has high expectations to monetise the tournaments.
Sony SIX expected to clock in an estimated Rs 200 crore in ad revenues. Buoyed by the increase in ratings and growth in viewership, the broadcaster even increased its advertising rates by 20-25 per cent during the last leg of the FIFA World Cup 2014 tournament. They also claimed to have sold 80 per cent of the on-air inventory mid way into the tournament in an online report.
According to Shekhar Banerjee, Senior VP & Head, Madison Media – Pinnacle, "Many brands came in and they bought spots for the final matches and of course, many more were interested. If you look at the TVTs the numbers are very good, it will be very competitive."
When asked about this, Rohit Gupta, President, Multi Screen Media (MSM), the parent company of Sony channels, declined to comment.
Senior media planners noted that ad space is not brought according to the rate cards as the price is negotiated while buying in packages. According to a senior media planner, the ad revenues for the tournament would not have gone roughly over Rs 120 crore to Rs 130 crore. “They (Sony SIX) have definitely not got those numbers because till the last moment, they had pressure on inventory. I don’t think they closed all sponsors also, because I remember at the start of the season they were looking at six sponsors and between these six sponsors, they were targeting around 70-80 per cent of the inventory. If that hasn’t fallen into place, I am sure that they are going to be short of quite a bit of money,” he added.
Anand Chakravarthy, Head – West, Maxus India said that while he would not be able to comment on how much revenue has been generated by the FIFA World Cup 2014 for Sony SIX, “Many Maxus clients have been supportive of the World Cup and we brought them on board as sponsors early on. We definitely see the potential of football growing in a cricket crazy nation”.
Speaking from a sponsor’s perspective regarding advertising spends for the FIFA World Cup 2014, Akshay Menon, Assistant Manager, L’Oreal (for Garnier Men’s Face Wash) said, “It’s a big sum of money. Without giving you absolute numbers, we managed to buy spots across key fixtures and stay present during live matches and highlights, which were critical as the World Cup timings were odd. I am overall satisfied with the spots we have had on Sony SIX.”
Replicating the IPL model of buying was essentially the strategy of Sony SIX for the FIFA World Cup 2014. This meant getting sponsors for around 30 per cent of the on-air inventory, with the balance shared between spot ads and last minute buying. For IPL, last minute buying typically commands a premium of 30-40 per cent. “That is how they were approaching (brands), but I don’t think it went about like that. At the last moment, they were selling at what rates you want to buy. This was their strategy, but things did not fall into place. A lot of advertisers were on the fence. Discussions were happening and proposals were getting discussed, but nothing was closed,” said the source.
Timings in terms of the tournament, beginning just after the IPL and the late schedule of the matches, played a crucial role in sponsors sitting on the fence. Except for a few brands, most others had already pumped in enough of money into IPL and hence, were left with very less for the FIFA World Cup.
Regardless of this, the viewership of the tournament was extremely good, crossing over 60 million, excluding the data from the final few matches, which are yet to come out. This definitely prompted many of those brands on the fence to join in the race for eyeballs. According to Shekhar Banerjee, Senior VP & Head, Madison Media – Pinnacle, “Many brands came in and they bought spots for the final matches and of course, many more were interested. We were tracking the TVRs in top metros and small towns, the ratings were on an average close to 1 TVR. These are very good numbers, but if you report it at TVTs, it will be very competitive.”
Vinit Karnik, National Director, Sports and Live Events, GroupM ESP added here, “Like any other sporting event, audience and advertiser interest levels build up post qualifying rounds. It is observed that the viewership peaks from the quarter final stages leading up to the finals.”
Providing an insight into this, Chakravarthy said, “These brands possibly invested on the hypothesis that the interest in the World Cup would grow closer towards the knockout phase. Also they were possibly waiting for the first week’s ratings to see how the matches performed especially the late slots post 12.30 am, where many of the matches were being played at. While there is a definite perceptible increase in interest in football in India, advertisers still tread carefully and evaluate football properties basis performance.”
Commenting on this Gupta said, “It (viewership) was anyway expected to do well. But overall it (FIFA World Cup 2014) has done very well in terms of ad revenues and viewership. Our target was somewhere around 80 to 100 million viewership for the FIFA (World Cup 2014). Let’s see when the final numbers come up. It is only until Thursday that the numbers will come out and we will take stock of the situation.”
With two more football events in the bag and time zones favouring Indian viewers, there remains hope for Sony SIX to still monetise their investment.