Vodafone and STAR India have entered into a strategic partnership to create a multi-sports offering, Vodafone Sports portal on Vodafone Live. This is a first-of-its-kind service that brings action from across sports to both feature phones and smartphones, allowing customers to access to a variety of sports content on mobile.
STAR has committed to invest Rs 20,000 crore in developing the sports genre.
In an exclusive chat with exchange4media, Sanjay Gupta, COO, STAR India, talks about the network’s foray into sports and the convergence of TV and digital platforms.
Are you buying IPL rights after Sony ends its contract?
IPL rights are far away. It is available on starsports.com. Our attempt is to make meaningful content available across all platforms. I think commenting post 2018 will be too far-fetched.
STAR India has invested large amount of money on buying sports properties. Is it to change the image of the network being a female-oriented channel and bring more males in the target group?
That is absolutely right. We are entertaining female audiences in a big way. In a way they were our lone supporters in a typical household. Now, we would like to have deeper partnerships with not only female but also male audiences and hence, our big foray into sports.
Talking about the Vodafone sponsorship, which is a digital initiative, do you think the broadcasting community needs more consumer engagement in the digital space?
Fundamentally, we are looking at consumption on devices beyond TV in a big way. Therefore, we are looking for forays in engaging in a very meaningful way with those consumers. We are tying up with Vodafone to deliver our content on mobile. Vodafone is well connected to the consumer we reach out to. It is an investment to ensure that our content is available to every viewer on every screen. The core of the partnership is content and its consumption.
In India, where do you see content consumption on digital going? Will it be confined to only video consumption?
Globally video consumption is going strong. Video is a very rich way of consuming content. Fifty years ago it was print, then came radio and TV. In time, content consumption will become deeper, richer and that is the way to go. In India, the total content consumption is two and a half hours per day. Globally, people consume six hours of content per day. I think in India both TV and other devices will grow in a dramatic way in the next 10 years.
Sports genre is getting digital, but do you see consumers loyal to entertainment genre shifting to digital interfaces?
Sport is where there is natural affinity and hence it will happen fast. International movie content consumption is already happening on digital. Hindi entertainment will follow. This is a young country and people are accessing more and more content on the internet and mobile. It should be made easily accessible. I think that is one reason this country is seeing serious amount of piracy today.
Globally, people have multiple TV sets in their homes. India is a country with mostly single TV households. If one wants to consume content one has to go to other devices.
Star Sports plays similar content throughout the day. One show is broadcast four times a day. How will you match your six platforms with sports genre which is frequency based?
Sports viewing in India is dominated by cricket. But we don’t even watch our women’s cricket team or young cricket teams. This will change when there are multiple sports being played in the country. If one goes to the US or the UK, people play and watch various sports. India is a zero sports country! We are committed to covering cricket, including Ranji. Now one sees all Ranji matches being put on TV. This wasn’t the case six months ago. Hockey is also being broadcast everyday. We need to build new sports and new leagues. We have even broadcasted university matches to make the content more vernacular.
Industry sources suggest that STAR India shares a very good rapport with the BCCI, and this is what gets them the prime properties available in cricket. How do you respond to that?
BCCI has very good partnerships with Sony and Star and others. So, this suggestion doesn’t hold true.
What are your views on the ratings blackout scenario?
Ratings are an important currency with which we transact. Advertising agencies, broadcasters and advertisers, everybody needs them. But we need to make it more comprehensive and deeper, which BARC is trying to do now.
You have been supporting ad cap. Do you think the timing is right?
It is a very good step. Anything which is good for the consumers is good for the industry. One can always keep debating the timing. When we started HD, people wondered if it was the right time. Today, 2 million households consume HD content. People like to watch content on TV. It’s what they want and they may watch ads in between. But in some cases, it seems like people have to watch more ads and less content as they have no option. News channels are airing 30 minutes of ads and 30 minutes of content which is like taking viewers for a ride. ‘Honour you viewer, the business and profits will follow’ is what I believe in. I am very supportive of ad cap and I think that discipline to deliver content to the consumer should be the focus.