Seven more days to go before the DLF IPL season 5’s bugle starts resonating in Indian households, and indiatimes.com, the official online and mobile broadcast rights holder, unveiled its newly designed microsite: ipl.indiatimes.com. The new site has been restructured to include new concepts that are aimed at providing a richer user experience. Rishi Khiani, chief executive officer, Times Internet talked to Campaign India about the microsite, which is expected to go live today, as well as his expectations from the property.
Who are your various partners in IPL 5 season?
As you know, last year, a consortium of Times Internet (TIL) and Nimbus Communication acquired DLF IPL's global internet, mobile and audio rights (along with television rights in specific territories outside India) for four years at Rs. 261.6 crore. Google is our distribution and technology partner. We already have a YouTube channel for indiatimes.com with 37,000+ subscribers. For the first time, we have tied up with All India Radio for audio feeds on radio, which will stream live radio commentary on AM bandwidth. Continuing the last year’s association with us, Apalya will take the feeds and distribute it to different networks for mobile streaming.
Several media analysts have not been very optimistic about last as well as this season of DLF IPL series. Can you share some numbers from your last year’s performance?
We know that there is a perception out there, and we are here to break it. Contrary to several stories you would have heard, we received a great response last season. In fact, we received around 72 million page-views last year. Of this, a major chunk (62 million) was from India. The average time spent on the feeds was 30 minutes, and during the final neck-to-neck match, it soared to 75 minutes. The average numbers of unique visitors per day were roughly over 3 million. We have witnessed an average increase of 43% year-on-year increase in viewership. This year we expect it to be even bigger and better.
Today, the gauge for measuring success is engagement. How differently are you trying to engage your viewers this time?
We are introducing a number of new and interesting things this season. We are injecting in two new concepts – Battleground and Cheerleader Corner. The Battleground is a forum for fans to voice their opinions during a live match. It has an element of associating yourself with a team. It creates a great source of referral, as well as, engagement. Users can not only post comments but also engage in various other interactive activities like throwing tomatoes or eggs at the other side, and much more.
The Cheerleader Corner would enable a user to select an avatar of a cheerleader of his choice from a list. This cheerleader will appear at pre-defined moments such as when a boundary is hit, wicket falls, or even once in every over. The site will also have interactive scorecards, high-definition streaming of IPL matches, Video-on-Demand facility and DVR features to rewind during a match. The interactive scorecard will also highlight definite points such as boundaries, fall of wickets, etc. which a user can directly seek to revisit the moment.
Another high point is that the famous blogger Anupam Mukherji, aka Fake IPL Player, would be writing for us, along with several other bloggers. We also have tie-ups with seven IPL teams who would contribute content to the page either in video or in text.
How do you plan to provide a rich experience for the users with slow-speed broadband connections?
Online viewing is all about experience. We are streaming the matches in seven different bit-formats. This means that the quality of the video feed will automatically adjust according to the broadband speed of the user. The DVR will offer a great viewing experience for users who utilise 180kbps to 2mbps broadband connections.
Who are the major sponsors this year? Apart from in-stream advertising, are there any other properties with which brands can associate?
Coca-Cola, Samsung and Maruti are the main sponsors for this season. The co-sponsors are Hindustan Unilever, Hero, Airtel along with Citibank, eBay, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Karbonn mobiles. There are innumerable properties of which brands can be an active part. In addition to in-stream ads, brands can also associate with specific properties such as Team Pages, Cheerleader Corner, or even sponsor a special video content; for instance, top sixes, safest catches, et al.
Pirated online feeds eat up traffic and revenue from the official broadcasting rights holder. How prepared are you to counter them?
Last year, our legal team had sent on average 300 notices every day to sites, which were streaming pirated feeds. Apart from contacting the ISPs to pull the plug off these sites, our legal team also contacted the advertisers on the sites and asked them not to advertise on these sites. Since it’s about minting money by streaming live matches, killing advertising revenue is a much more pragmatic approach to counter it.