As ESPN FC turned one, we caught up with Bimal Kapadia, senior director, and Ramesh Kumar, head of ESPN Digital Media India and ESPNcricinfo on consumption patterns of football websites in India and more.
How has the online consumption of football changed over the past one year, from the Indian perspective?
BK: From the Indian scenario, ESPN FC has witnessed tremendous growth in mobile and video. Though football is not as popular as cricket, interest in the sport is growing and people are following the similar trend of watching matches online, checking scores and statistics for a comprehensive knowledge. Focus will be on covering breaking news, offering an in-depth analysis of the game worldwide, which is a differentiating factor from other players.
From a global perspective, growth in video has been driving from the markets of US, Asia and India in particular.
Is there any specialised local content planned?
BK: Like we do with ESPNcricinfo for cricket, what we aim to do is cover the sport globally, for the local audiences around the world. What we have seen regularly, not just in India but around the world, is that there is enormous interest in following the biggest leagues and clubs around the world. What is happening in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, and at Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and others, is relevant in India because it is what Indian fans are following. But we also cover some of the other top and emerging leagues in Europe, Latin America and even Africa and Australia. We are growing the number of voices that contribute to our coverage, and in time we may potentially be looking to bring in an Indian voice to our coverage also.
We also are following the development of the IMG R League and the I League. When those local leagues begin to have a passionate wider following, we would look to cover them further as well. At the moment, they are not quite there in terms of a broader Indian or global audience.
What are the promotional activities planned for the website in India?
RK: Our focus will be to have sustained social media engagement with fans across UEFA Champions League, World Cup Draw this year and leading to World Cup in 2014. We will also be running targeted campaigns on ESPNcricinfo and ESPNF1.
What is the traffic of ESPN FC in comparison to the ESPNcricinfo in India?
RK: Cricket and football have such different fan bases in India, that it is really a bit misleading to compare them. Football is an emerging sport. It is still a small overall audience, but growing fast and is incredibly passionate.
Interest in football among Indian fans is growing, with the time spent on the top 10 football-specific sites or sections in India growing at 31 per cent since last year, and engagement with ESPN FC is outpacing the market at 44 per cent growth in time spent since last year.
Currently in India, ESPN FC is the third-ranked football-specific site and the second-ranked independent news and information site. FIFA.com has slightly more traffic than ESPN FC. Goal.com is the market leader in terms of hits.
In August 2013, ESPN FC logged nearly 3,25,000 visitors from India online alone (not including mobile). On mobile, we have seen the Indian audience for ESPN FC grow 97 per cent over the past year.
Are you getting your maximum traffic from mobile platform or still from PCs?
BK: Video and mobile are areas that are growing fast. Though the overall numbers are still not huge, India now is the ninth largest market for viewing ESPN FC video globally, logging a half million views in July, 40 times more than last year.
Within India, which are the States from where you get the maximum traffic?
RK: The top cities in order of ranking for ESPN FC in India are Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Calcutta, Noida, and Gurgaon.