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One more sports channel... Is there space?

05-April-2012
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One more sports channel... Is there space?

Multi Screen Media (MSM) is ready to launch its sports channel ‘Six’. This would be a significant addition to its network that consists of channels such as Hindi general entertainment channel Sony, Hindi movies channel Max, English movies channel Pix, music channel Mix, a second general entertainment brand Sab, English entertainment channel AXN and anime channel Animax.

MSM currently has sports properties such as Indian Premier League (IPL), rights for New Zealand cricket, FA Cup and NBA. The cricket games are aired on Max whereas the football and basket ball games are aired on Pix. All these are expected to move to Six.

The launch of another sports channel raises the question whether there is a place for another sports channel in the market. If yes, then with just a few sports properties, would it be difficult for the channel to attract viewers.

The channel cannot keep airing the old IPL matches or New Zealand’s matches as that would bore the audience. NBA is aired early in the morning and FA Cup starts in the night. Although FA Cup could garner some ratings but that is not played throughout the year. Six could face the challenge of not being able to maintain viewership if they don’t get enough sporting properties for the channel. Losing the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) rights in the recently concluded bid has not helped the channel either.

Nonetheless, Dinesh Rathore, Vice President – MediaVest Global, believes there is place for another sports channel in the market. “Six has IPL and it can generate significant content around the league. Also, when the Indian team travels to New Zealand, I am sure there will be enough fans who would watch the game early in the morning,” he said.

Sharing a similar view, Amin Lakhani, Principal Partner, Mindshare India said, “There are 600 channels today and viewers can make their choices. The number of channels does not matter because people are intelligent to decide what channel they want to watch.”

India, a cricket-crazy country, has started accepting other sports. Formula One did quite well in its first year. Football is a game that the youngsters have started to follow and love. The Indian Hockey team qualifying for the London Olympics brought back the love for the game. This could well have happened due to Indian cricket team’s dismal performance in England and then Australia. But does that make people stop loving the game of cricket? The answer is no. Every channel likes to have at least two cricket boards to be with them, if not more.

Himanka Das, Senior Vice President, Carat Media said, “For any sports channel, cricket has been a key driver that contributes not only to revenue but also to distribution. I am not very sure what kind of sports content Six is banking on but they have to have a strategy that includes other sporting events apart from IPL.”

ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket have dominated the sports genre for a long time and they have more than enough content to keep viewers engaged. Neo Sports, Neo Cricket, Ten Sports, Ten Golf, Ten Cricket and Ten Action+ also have enough content.

Is lack of sports content going to be an issue for Six?
“Content raises viewership but generating enough of it will be a challenge. Six will take over IPL. Now with a separate sports entity, there is an opportunity to grab more games and international rights,” said Lakhani.

Rathore and Das voice another view. They feel that the channel will not face content problem. The former said that channel would have planned to get in more cricket boards post launch and the latter shared that the channel would aggressively look at serious shopping of sports content in the marketplace.

The entry of Six also means that MSM’s other channels that aired sports content would go back to their core competency – Max will once again be a movies channel only. The same would apply for Pix too. The move, on a broader note, can bring growth to the network on the whole.

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