Sony Pictures Sports bets on non-cricket sports to grow revenues

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on May 11, 2019

Trying to expand Sports viewership in the country, Sony Pictures Sports Network is betting on going beyond cricket and attract fans for Sports such as football, wrestling and mixed martial arts.

“In last two-three years, we invested in a lot of non-cricket properties and we realized that we need to grow those sports. That’s where the focus on football has been because we own the entire space and we’ve been home to FIFA for last 8 years now. 2014 and 2018 came to our channel and that’s why the whole focus is there to grow the sport,” Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head – Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India, told BusinessLine.

New initiatives such as commentary in multiple regional languages is helping the channel to expand football viewership. This year itself, the network managed to increase viewership for UEFA Champions League by 75 per cent.

“A lot of other sports are also growing,” Kaul said. “India is truly becoming a multi sport nation now. It’s not just a cricketing nation. We’ve seen excellent increase in sports like NBA, thanks to commentary in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC is similarly growing well for us. We recently renewed rights for the sport for five years.”


TRAI regulation has created an impact on viewership for Sony’s Sports network as several consumers complain of increased cable costs and are resorting to curtailing their channel subscriptions and in cases even cutting the cord completely. “It’s a large country and people were not ready for it. The transition will happen over the next couple of months but eventually things will settle down. Viewership has come down little bit we don’t have complete visibility of the subscriber numbers as of now because we are still trying to get the reports from our stakeholders,” Kaul said.

“Unlike GECs or mass channels, you’ll have to give Sports at least 4-5 months to understand what has been the viewers’ choice as people are still figuring out how to choose their subscription packs.” Sony has come out with prices that start from Rs 17 to attract viewers and is also the only broadcaster to have a solo Sports pack.

Falling subscription

But the impact has been twofold. On one hand, subscription has overall fallen for Sports channels because of the shake up in cable TV norms. On the other hand, Sony’s rift with Tata Sky over pricing issues led to the operator taking down the entire network from its platform last year. Moreover, Sony also lost rights for IPL to Star that drew away a big chunk of viewers looking for cricket. Therefore, a focus on Sports other than cricket will help the broadcaster get back to its feet faster.

And for that it is not only focusing on purists who would do anything to watch their favourite sport but also fence sitters who need to be given a reason to watch Sports. As a build-up to the knockout stage of the tournament, Sony Pictures Sports Network has launched the ‘My Reasons to Watch UEFA Champions League’ campaign. The campaign captures the enthusiasm and passion of various kinds of fans, ranging from fanboys to peripheral football viewers who profess their reasons for watching the most prestigious club competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League.

“We’ve also tied up with PVR Cinemas to showcase UEFA Championship in 5 cities on at least 15 screens. The idea is to go beyond the normal ad hoardings to create a different experience for the fans. We did something similar for WWE Wrestlemania. We got excellent response for that and now we plan to do this more often,” Kaul said. Such efforts are already showing results. Cricket, which dominated over 90 percent of viewership on Sony Sports Network, now is down to about 60-65 percent of viewership, giving room to other Sports to grow.

Published on May 11, 2019

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