India is opening up to new sporting properties, which is giving sports fans more reasons to be glued to their television sets. It’s all good when sporting events are hosted at different time slots, allowing viewers to watch all major events without missing out on one. Especially when the same channel or network has rights to several major events, and one of them is Indian cricket.
Over the Republic Day weekend, the same sports TV bouquet had the broadcasting rights for the Australian Open, India-England ODI series, Hockey India League and the Ranji Trophy final (which featured Sachin Tendulkar). Timings clashed, and with only three channels (besides the network’s HD channels), some fans missed out on the non-cricket sporting events. Those who could opt to record and watch it later, would. But that’s later, and that takes away from the essence of sports viewing. Enter Pay Per View (PPV).
Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer, Dish TV, is off the opinion that the Indian market is ready for PPV. He says, “35 to 38 million people in the country have already migrated to DTH providers. This number is only going to increase in the future. This platform allows networks to offer PPV. So given this situation, it’s obvious that PPV should take off. It’s already taken off for movies and the next logical option is sports.”
Dish TV along with Ten Sports partnered to give fans the option of picking a football match of their choice during the UEFA Champions League. Each ‘matchday’ of a Champions League night has eight football matches being played simultaneously; Ten Sports, Ten Action and Ten HD can only show three at a given point of time. For Rs 100 per month, Dish TV users got the choice of picking a game of their choice.
On the response received, Atul Pande, chief executive officer, Ten Sports, says, “It’s something that I won’t call a runaway success, but it’s encouraging. We had a good response to this and received about 7,000 to 8,000 subscriptions to the channel. This shows we are ready for PPV in India. It’s only a question of working on it. If a network has enough content to monetise, it can go ahead with the platform.”
While the duo that partnered to work with this platform think it’s the right option, there are others don’t think India is ready for PPV yet.
Hiren Pandit, managing partner, special projects, GroupM, says, “The base for people watching tennis, football and sports other than cricket is too small. We in India are still some way off for PPVs in sporting properties. When it comes to niche channels, the problem is the price of getting the content and giving it to the viewer. This may be too high for a sport like tennis or football.”
Homi Battiwalla, executive vice president - Colas, Hydration and Mango Based Beverages, Pepsico India, notes that choices of consumers in urban India is changing. He says, “The good thing is that more and more people in urban India are diversifying their choices and not sticking to just sports. But as a viewer, I don’t think I’m yet used to the idea of PPV.”
Prasanna Krishnan, chief operating officer, Neo Sports explains why PPV won’t work in India currently: “There are a couple of issues with PPV in our country. One is the pricing, which is always a problem with PPV. We are in a market where one is used to paying between Rs 100 to 125 on the lowers side to about Rs 350 on the higher side for a monthly cable bill. This includes almost all the sports channels at the higher end. The willingness to pay for a particular sport will be a serious problem. Secondly, PPV may work on the most premium sport. In India that sport is cricket. Cricket is governed by law, where Indian cricket has to be made available for viewers. If you put only niche sports on PPV, then the number of people willing to see it will be very low. This makes no commercial sense.”
Other sports fans will have to put up with cricket, given the numbers that are stacked in its favour. PPV, when it arrives, might help them change the game.
Prasanna Krishnan, COO, Neo Sports
If you look at it internationally, PPV is always for the biggest property and not for the smallest event. If we put cricket on it, then there will be a market for it in India. Viewership will shrink by 90 per cent but revenues still might be the same. If I give you Indian football and put it on PPV, very few will be ready to pay Rs 500 a month for it. That’s where the challenge comes in.
Hiren Pandit, managing partner, special projects, GroupM
The tennis audience would be a subset of the cricket audience. The Ranji Trophy final had interest because Tendulkar was playing in it. Even with that added fact, I don’t see people paying to watch the Ranji Trophy Final. I can’t blame networks for looking at multiple sporting properties. They want eyeballs and don’t want properties to go to anyone else.
Homi Battiwalla, EVP - Colas, Hydration and Mango Based Beverages, Pepsico India
When there are multiple sporting events taking place at the same time, and one network has broadcasting rights to it, I don’t think there’s a lost opportunity for advertisers. I don’t think there is yet a monopolistic approach in India. It could be a fact in the US but advertisers have a lot of opportunity when it comes to India.
Atul Pande, chief executive officer, Ten Sports
Very often during Champions League nights, we would only be able to show the matches featuring Barcelona and Manchester United. We had several mails coming in from fans of other teams who wanted their games to be aired on TV and hence we launched the option of the fan picking his match. That’s why we launched a PPV channel with Dish TV and had a good response. We received about 7,000 to 8,000 subscriptions to the channel.
Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer, Dish TV
To make this work, channels need to contact DTH providers who can give them this option of creating a PPV channel. DTH companies and channels can share revenues for such events. We tried this out with the UEFA Champions League in football. The response was good and we’ll look to take it forward for other sporting properties in the future.