Rajesh Sethi, CEO, Ten Sports talks about the future of sports broadcasting in India, recent acquisitions made by the group and how the digital space is changing the way sports is being telecast.
Where do you see the future of sports broadcasting in India?
Sports is a growing genre. Media is playing a critical role as a driver of sports to the next level. The number of sports channels has increased drastically in last 10 years. All sports broadcasters are looking forward to use the best possible technology, more so with the introduction of HD channels. We also believe that as a broadcaster, it is our responsibility to bring in change with various forms of sports and also enhanced viewership experience. We also believe that cricket is followed as a religion in our country. But we have also seen that a lot of non-cricket sports are being watched. The younger audience likes experience of soccer, tennis, badminton, etc. This shift has been welcomed and accepted.
What matters more in the genre – the acquisition of a property or the user engagement within the property?
It is both in a way. You need to have content, but there are pockets for entertainment in each contour, which might vary. For example, hockey is followed keenly in Punjab and UP, while football is followed in Kerala, Kolkata, Goa, etc. While you acquire content, it is important what treatment you give to that content. What is your focus on the programming aspect? This brings in the entire viewership gamut. Presenting analysis, getting world class commentators on your studios, and engaging them in pre- and post-game shows matter a lot. Viewership engagement has a big role to play with regard to really popularise and build the property you have acquired. Live content has a greater viewership pull and can be packaged in an excellent way with better production quality, graphics and so on. We make sure that we include engagements across all our channels.
What are the recent acquisitions of Ten Sports?
Acquisition is something that any channel keeps doing on a regular basis. I call it the hygiene factor, and somewhere the acquisitions link around with your overall channel strategy. We are following a nuanced approach, where we are trying to create segmentation from all genres of sports. Ten Sports is the only channel in the country which offers segmented content across all genres. Ten Cricket, Ten Golf, and Ten Action are the channels where we exclusively cover cricket, golf, and football, respectively, while at Ten Sports we have a mix of all games such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, cycling, etc. Ten HD presents content in HD form, with an enhanced user experience.
When we do acquisition, we ensure that there is meaningful sporting action available for each of our channel. We have long term rights for Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Pakistan Cricket Boards. We bought in Grand Slam, which is like the IPL of South Africa. There are other properties that we are working on in the cricket genre, which will be revealed at an appropriate time. We have the Eurasia Cup, Rider Cup in golf. We are also a big believer in football. Content, which we are bullish on in the near future, are Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Hockey World Cup.
A lot of investment has gone into sports by various broadcasters. There is a huge question of digital medium emerging. Do you think audiences in this genre are shifting to digital medium very fast?
Absolutely! Gone is the era when a single event used to be broadcast on single screen with limited bandwidth. Now, one has the opportunity to provide varied content at multiple platforms with various audio tracks targeted at various viewers. This has been made possible only because of digital fragmentation. During the recent India-SA series, series we did a lot of video streaming of the matches. We are aggressively building our presence in the digital space. I believe that is where the future lies and this gets engrossed with the complete social media platform, which is also one of the big opinion makers with regards to building any property.