Indians have followed cricket like a religion. There are abundant followers of other sports as well viz: football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, etc., but in India, cricket remains the best and assured bet for advertisers. Advertising on sports in India is worth approximately Rs 4200 crore and almost 90 per cent of the share comes from cricket.
Broadcasting experts and advertisers have regularly been vocal about the fact that the business here is run by the ‘on-ground’ sport and not much depends upon which channel is broadcasting the cricket series.
In cricket broadcasting, Star Sports, Ten Sports, and MSM Group’s channels are the main players. With the way sports broadcasting business in India is changing and the amount of money advertisers are pitching, the stakes become essentially high. In a genre where the content is the ‘on-ground’ event, which broadcaster stands out?
Media planners and advertisers we spoke to have rated Star Sports as a better bet that Ten Sports and MSM. According to them, the content strategy is skewed towards Star Sports. However, they have also mentioned that this has got more to do with the kind of cricket content the network has.
Star Sports had bought the broadcasting rights for all the BCCI matches until 2018 for Rs 3851 crore. The deal covers all Duleep Trophy, Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy matches. It also has the right for the ICC Champion’s League T20 till 2017 and ICC World Cup 2015. On the other hand, MSM Group, which has channels such as Set Max and Sony, has rights for Indian Premiere League till 2018. Along with this, Sony Six has got the rights for the upcoming Pakistan – Sri Lanka series starting from December.
Ten Sports, on the other hand, has access to all the matches from the boards of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka. The network has rights for the upcoming India – South Africa series, and South Africa – Australia series.
Media analysts and observers feel that in cricket broadcasting, apart from the match featuring India which is broadcasted in prime time, the entire showcasing and presentation of the match matters a lot. The overall quality of packaging, commentators, and showcasing gives Star Sports an edge over Ten Sports and MSM.
Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia said, “The share of opportunities is skewed towards Star Sports. In India, the game of cricket is the highest rated bet. All the BCCI matches will be telecasted by Star Sports along with ICC Cricket World Cup. This gives them a clear distinction. Apart from this, with its global sports business, Star Sports packages the entire content very well. Other broadcasters are good too, but in the present scenario, opportunities are more skewed towards Star Sports.”
“With the quality and quantity of content and overall expertise it commands in showcasing a cricket series, the sports arm of STAR Group is considerably ahead of Ten Sports and MSM. Although this hardly has influence on money spends as advertisers pay for the event and not for the channel, but STAR has mastered the art of showcasing cricket as compared to other channels,” said Anindya Ray, Senior Vice President, Lodestar UM.
Sandipan Ghosh, Chief Marketing Officer, Ruchi Soya Industries said, “In every sporting event, acquisition of the telecasting rights is the deciding factor. With that aspect, Star Sports has a robust format as compared to any other sports broadcaster for coming times. Coupled with the packaging and the quality of commentators the network has, it is also the best in the industry.”
Some experts we spoke to also mentioned that the days of putting live content on TV and then sleeping over it is a thing of the past. Sports broadcasters today need to keep the buzz alive and robust even between the matches. This could be through social media, events or partnering with local communities. “The broadcaster has to engage the consumer beyond just watching the match. When such things happen, advertisers get a more tangible association with the event and also with the channel,” said a senior technology advertiser who invests in cricket telecasts.
The other side
Experts believe the best matches are the ones where India plays, and that too when the performance of the team is good. If the performance of the team goes down, everything goes down. Reportedly, back in 2006, it was extremely difficult to sell ads for Neo Sports after India’s disastrous tour of South Africa. Also, Sony too lost Rs 1500 crore in the ICC World Cup of 2007 where India could not reach quarter finals.
So, though Star Sports has invested hugely in cricket broadcasting business, the RoI would completely depend upon the performance of the team on the ground. Similar would be the case with Ten Sports and MSM.
“The best advantage with upcoming South Africa series is that it is being aired in prime time. This would give Ten Sports an advantage. So it all matters on who acquires the best property to get viewers and presents it in a robust form to generate RoI for advertisers,” said one of the sponsors of the upcoming India – SA series.
Experts have also shared that in the end, sports is different from other genres and therefore, players in this category cannot sustain their position by just hanging over live content. In this context, advertiser and marketers have placed their bet not on Star Sports or any other channel, but on the properties the networks have bought. With that reference, Star Sports is at edge as compared to other players in this category as it has bought properties lucrative to both, audiences as well as advertisers.