Prashant Singh
Aug 26, 2010

It's time for ESPN-STAR to seize the opportunity

Sport Consultant Prashant Singh on how India will re-define football viewership, ahead of the FIFA World Cup

Prashant Singh
Prashant Singh

It's time for ESPN-STAR to seize the opportunity


June 12th, IST 18:00 hrs, Korea vs. Greece; I’m glued to the television that I believe could be bigger, flatter and thinner. I’ve been pitching the need for it to my wife for over a month with little luck. My wife who is facebooking recognizes that look on my face and leaves the den in disgust. I’m unsure if it’s the sound of the vuvuzelas or the greed in my eyes that has prompted the departure. Our domestic walks in and out of the den with equal swiftness prompting me to press the mute button and ask her what the problem is. She nods her head indicating to me that the sound of the vuvuzela is giving her a headache. Whoa, what, I ask? She continues to wax eloquent about how her son is a fan, how he and his friends have warned all their mothers that FIFA will rule for a month, how the sound frustrates her and it has been only a day! As she drones on, I remain amazed! Dharavi, ladies and gentlemen is buzzing with the vuvuzelas from 5 pm to 2am and won’t stop all this month.

It is a fact that the popularity of football is increasing year-on-year in India, as is evident from the fact that the sport attracted 60% more audiences in a span of five years from 2005-2009, according to a TAM Sports study. Driving the football viewership are the SEC AB 15+ males, who form 83% of the viewers of the football programming in India.

Here are some statistics (for India) from a global on-line survey by AC Nielsen*:

81% proportion of Indians surveyed who will watch the WC on TV

58% proportion will follow it in the newspapers

35% proportion will follow it online

34% will watch it on their mobiles

30% will see the online video clips of the matches

18% will follow the matches via chats / blogs

14% will watch the match on mobile video clips

6% will follow it on podcasts

15% will watch it LIVE in South Africa

 And of course only in India! We have a new twist or a re-definition, if you please, to the term ‘soccer mom’. Run and managed by mothers only, there exists a 60 team football league in Delhi. Called the Delhi International Football League (DIFL) this league is for kids between 5-15 and is supported by companies such as Deloitte, Nike, Kinley and Fortis.

Did you know that EA Sports’ FIFA is the highest selling video game in India – more popular than their cricket counterparts and more lucrative than some real-world sport and apart from being big in the personal computers and gaming consoles, it’s now also part of the professional gaming circuit in India.

Football has been gathering enthusiasts and viewers among the young and the well-travelled for a while now, but it’s the mass that one needs to engage. They are all aware of the various football properties that they have access to, in their homes, and post the WC they will have become more familiar with the names of the footballers, their faces. The WC will also create a new bunch of icons who will be revered not only by the fans and clubs in Europe and will then become part of our household come August for a few years to come. Brands like colas, mobile handsets, telecom service providers, motorcycle, apparel and ESS need to use this as a platform to clearly establish football as the number two sport in the country (and not WWE!) It is a fact that more and more people are sampling football, be it via the television, internet, print or the retail channels. If I were to take a calculated guess; the viewership of this edition of the FIFA WC will grow 4 to 10 times that of the last edition.

Yet another of my “failed” attempts to buy the TV-of-my-dreams at the Sony store in Bandra threw up an interesting statistic. They had over 12 enquires for their 40 inch plus LEDs a day and sold over 10. Yes, per day for the last two weeks. I’m still to get mine but then I will be watching the finals with my buddies in Johannesburg come 11th July. Waka waka!


*Source: Nielsen global online survey, conducted in March, polling over 27000 consumers in 55 countries in Asia-pacific, Europe, Latin America, ME and NA, the survey has weighted quotas on age and sex for each country based on internet consumers.

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