Even though, Sony might have beaten STAR India to win the IPL broadcasting rights, the latter still managed a coup of sorts by winning the digital broadcast rights to the IPL. This adds to STAR India’s already impressive kitty – it has the broadcast rights for all BCCI matches till 2017, the ICC Champions League till 2017, the ICC World Cup to be held in 2015, the Asian Cup, as well as domestic cricket tournaments. It is also the official sponsor of the Indian cricket team. With the latest win, it now has a stake in all the major cricketing events.
Both companies, the other being Times Internet, which has licensed the digital broadcast rights to STAR India for a fee and was also the digital license holder for the previous three years, will distribute IPL in 2014 on their digital destinations and market the joint proposition and STAR India will be solely responsible for monetisation, including advertising sales.
One question arises, how big is the revenue opportunity when it comes to digital live streaming? Last year, the IPL, which was broadcast on YouTube through a license agreement with Times Internet, witnessed 56 per cent growth in unique visitors, with over 200 million video views, over the previous year. “At a time when more and more fans are following sports across multiple screens, our aim is to deliver an experience for them that is even better than what is on television,” said Sanjay Gupta, COO, STAR India. “We want to make IPL the world’s largest sporting event on a digital platform this year. The key phrase, according to us, being ‘better than what is on television,” he added.
Since its launch in 2013, starsports.com, has become a popular destination for watching matches online. Though exact numbers are unavailable, it is estimated that since its launch, starsports.com has seen almost 30 million unique visitors. Though the website usually works on a subscription model, the buzz is that STAR India is considering an ad/ sponsorship-led monetisation strategy for the IPL. Sources close to the broadcaster said that it is looking to “heavily monetise” the IPL. But will advertisers be willing to pay? Moreover, if they want to advertise on both the TV and digital, they will have to negotiate with two different entities.
Aman Malhotra, Head of Digital Marketing (Mobile Biz), Samsung India Electronics said, “We have been sponsoring IPL on the digital platform for the past two years, so we will consider what rate they (STAR India) are asking for before we evaluate it.” When asked about his experience advertising on the digital platform, he said that the experience in the first year was great, but last year the ad rates being asked were too expensive. However, he still feels that there is potential for advertisers on the digital platform. “With a sporting event like the IPL, what tends to happen is that it gets too fragmented. In digital, even if you pay the same amount as on TV, you still get more visibility, plus the freedom to tailor your campaigns,” he expressed.
On the other hand, Amit Tiwari, Country Head (Media), Philips India feels the IPL has lost its shine. “I would personally not consider investing on a digital property during the IPL,” he said, explaining that it is no longer an event like the ICC World Cup that everyone would make a point to watch even in office.
This might be so, but with STAR India’s broadcast and online reach, coupled with Times Group’s strength in print, radio and OOH, one can be looking at perhaps the most massive IPL campaign from a digital perspective.
With STAR’s recent emphasis on “sports first” (STAR India commits Rs 20,000 crore to bring 'sports first'), it seems to be playing the long term game when it comes to the sports genre. Since the overhauling of the Star Sports brand, STAR India now has four normal and two HD channels, the rationale being to have enough bandwidth for every sport. The recent big money deals for cricketing events have also shown STAR India’s aggression and determination.
According to Pradeep Iyengar, President (India Operations), Indraksh EMM India, STAR India made a well-planned strategic move by aligning with the BCCI and supporting them when they needed a sponsor (When BCCI decided to terminate their contract with the then sponsors Sahara). “The Sony think tank is not being futuristic, while STAR India is being astute in its guerrilla tactics. Even though online will not impact TV viewership right now, it is a very good long term move. STAR India has supported the BCCI, but they will extract their pound of flesh sooner or later,” he said.