Digital viewership gives football a leg up in cricket country

Rashmi Pratap Mumbai | Updated on July 03, 2018

Breaking new ground Sony Pictures Network is creating history of sorts by grossing the highest-ever football viewing in India through its digital arm SonyLiv   -  Jaishankar P

SonyLIV targets 45 million viewers from website and app for the World Cup

Cricket-worshipping India is warming up to football as well, thanks as much to TV as to the live streaming of the ongoing FIFA World Cup matches.

After Hotstar, the OTT (over-the-top) arm of Star India, cemented its position in the online viewership of IPL, Sony Pictures Network is creating history by grossing the highest-ever football viewing in India through its digital arm, SonyLIV, which has been catapulted to the Top 50 websites in the country.

“We have seen that football, as a sport, is gaining momentum in India. We have crossed over 20 million users and will see significant upward movement as the tournament progresses,” Uday Sodhi, EVP and Head – Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks India, told BusinessLine. SonyLiv is targeting 45 million viewers from the website and the app for the World Cup.

Hotstar vs SonyLiv

Not surprisingly, SonyLiv ranks 41 among the Top 50 websites in India, according to Alexa Internet, an Amazon company providing commercial web traffic data and analytics. Hotstar was ranked 17th as on July 2.

SonyLIV has broadcast some of the biggest events such as Euro 2016, U-17 FIFA, El Clasico, La Liga and Serie A. “We have seen that there is growing interest in football over the last two years and a significant jump in our viewership since the start of FIFA earlier this month,” Sodhi added.

Football expert and commentator Novy Kapadia said that online streaming has done football good in India. “Earlier, people could watch only night and evening watches on television due to work commitment. The use of technology has made the matches accessible to viewers round-the-clock. It has given a major boost to the popularity of the sport,” he said.

OTT delivers content via the internet, without requiring a cable or satellite service, giving users the flexibility of any time anywhere viewership. The top cities driving traffic for SonyLIV are Kolkata, Kochi, Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai. And, gradually, women are also taking interest in the sport. “We have seen that over 80 per cent of viewership is male, but that is changing,” said Sodhi.

Moreover, says Kapadia, the World Cup is a globally watched event with participation from 32 countries. “Even if your country is not participating, you are emotionally attached to some country. So, viewership is bound to be high in India as well.”

Football vs cricket

Yet, the love for football pales before that of cricket in India. “India is a one sport country — it is only cricket. The love for football comes only once in four years during the World Cup. Cricket is also loved here because India does well in that sport and that makes a major difference, says Kapadia.

While comparing SonyLiv and Hotstar is like comparing apples and oranges, Sodhi says football remains the fastest growing sport on digital. “And cricket is the largest sport in terms of digital viewers.”

Harish Bijoor , who heads an eponymous brand consultancy firm, said cricket is the biggest game and it has already been taken by Hotstar. “Like Hotstar is dominating cricket, Sony is dominating the high ground of soccer. FIFA has created a centre-stage for soccer. If only they are able to continue it and deepen it with every soccer game, I think they will be Sony — the specialists of soccer,” he said.

And that is something Sodhi is already focussing at.

“We have some of the biggest football tournaments on our platform like UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and French League. We will continue to give our viewers a unified sporting experience on SonyLIV,” he added.

Published on July 03, 2018

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