UEFA Champions League saw 50% growth in viewership last season: Neville Bastawalla, SPNI

Neville Bastawalla, Head of Marketing & On-Air Promotions, Sports, Sony Pictures Network India, says the company will explore regional feeds for UEFA Champions League 2019 Round 16

e4m by Moumita Bhattacharjee
Published: Oct 3, 2019 8:46 AM  | 4 min read
Neville Bastawall

Sony Pictures Network India’s sports vertical has the biggest world football leagues such as UEFA Champions League, FIFA, UEFA Euro 2020, UEFA Nations League, NBA and many more apart from The Ashes and India's tour of West Indies.

Neville Bastawalla, Head of Marketing & On-Air Promotions, Sports, says “massification” of sports content is the key and so is getting more language feeds. However, getting a good ROI on regional languages is important as well.

Speaking to us about introducing regional feed for UEFA Champions League, Bastawalla says, “We will look at it for sure. In Round 16 which will start off in March next year and go into finals in June, we will explore it for sure. That’s because for massification we will have to do that. But you have to also look into the ROI. Advertising or subscription - some benefit has to happen.”

When asked about the kind of viewership growth the leagues are enjoying, he said, “UEFA grew by 50 per cent on reach. We have been growing by 10-15 per cent. The UEFA Champions League in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 grew by 50 per cent. In 2018, 177 million people watched FIFA on my network in Russia. How do I get people to come in week-on-week? UEFA Champions League is the most ultimate league of football in the world. This is the league that has Ronaldo and Messi’s face-off. The only other time they fight each other is at the World Cup. Everybody has a reason to watch FIFA and so we thought let’s use that insight and create a testimonial campaign with people from different walks of life and talk about their reasons to watch UEFA.”

Citing the example of how Masterchef Australia was made the top show, he said, “In those days, say in 2009, people didn’t know English shows. A lot of action happened then to make Masterchef Australia a top show. Even on AXN, we did a lot of things to make Top Chef the leading show. Localisation and relevance - the same thing applies here.”

'Sona Mana Hai' is SPSN’s new campaign about the UEFA Champions League which is built on the concept of 'Fear Of Missing Out'. The network is looking to strengthen the same for the next few months. When asked about advertisers’ interest in these leagues, Bastawalla said: “These kinds of sports are not linked to their reach. We build that up. We get quality viewership. FIFA did that. It was both quality and mass. FIFA achieved those levels of viewership and monetisation. That’s our dream vision for UEFA Champions League.”

Bastawalla also said there is a huge potential in India for sports to become a serious entertainer. “It has just started in the last two years. Last year, for UEFA Champions League finals, PVR showcased the finals at their theatres. That happened in Delhi, Mumbai and Gurgaon. Other places we weren’t getting permissions because the match goes on till 3 in the morning. There was 70 per cent occupancy and that’s a great number for finals. So that is massification.”

Associating with Varun Dhawan for UFC and Farhan Akhtar for UEFA Champions League is also part of the “massification” plan of the network as that creates conversations.

There is a lot more sports action coming up from SPSN and Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 is one of them. “Pro Volleyball League created great momentum last year. Euro is on our network next year which is only going to help. India loves to watch action movies. UFC is very niche but enjoys die-hard fans across the globe. We are the destination for the Olympics next year. We launched 'Cheer for India' and a campaign called Hum Honge Kamyaab,” Bastawalla said as he signed off.

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