South American soccer league, COPA America makes its mark on TEN Sports in July 2004. The channel has conducted extensive research to be sure that the series would score high with the Indian audience. Peter Hutton, Head, Programming, TEN Sports, expresses that the channel is speedily moving on to a mode where it would air only live programming and COPA is a part of that step forward.
The research conducted studies on the Indian viewership pattern for soccer to enable the network in deciding properties that the Indian viewers accept. A key point of the research indicates that Indian audience follow national teams and soccer superpowers like Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Secondly, soccer associations are largely with superstars like Maradona, Pele, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Beckham. Also, Indian audience has grown up watching Argentina (1986) and Brazil (1994 and 2002) wining world cups and these are the strongest memories. Finally, even in tournaments with worldwide representation, matches of select teams like Brazil, Argentina and Germany are followed.
Bearing these points in mind, Hutton informs that the channel picked on the properties it will air. He says, “We have some of the best games like the South American world cup qualifiers, featuring all games of Brazil and Argentina leading up to World Cup 2006, Manchester United games (MUTV), The Real Madrid Asian tour and select international matches featuring England, Portugal, etc.”
Hutton informs that research is an important part of the channel’s programming decisions. “It doesn’t stop us from experimenting,” he adds, “because you don’t just show what works but you have to explore to see what has potential. However, before we make major commitments, we do back it up with research. “
Speaking about this research in particular, he says, “We have always associated with soccer. The challenge was to bring properties that maintain the connection and at the same time deliver right numbers with the Indian audience. And so we invested in this research but we will extend this to other sports as well.”
As to why the channel’s emphasis on South American soccer, Hutton explains “While most European nations have at the most one superstar, South American nations have star-studded teams and hence are followed more. In COPA, the cream of world soccer with teams like five-time and latest world champion Brazil, two-time world champions Argentina and Uruguay, and popular teams like Columbia, Paraguay, and Chile are on.”
Does he think soccer is the next big thing after cricket in India? “Soccer is big enough,” expresses Hutton but by a gap, of course. But there are other sports also that have potential in India, like French cycling. Last year we showed six days of the event live in India and this time, we would show more days. The results are good but at the same time not as good as they are globally. But going forward live sports is ‘the thing’ on Indian television and we are working our way towards it.”