Managing Director, Star India
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is one of the most popular cricket tournaments in the world. Star India has bagged the broadcast and digital rights for the IPL for the next five years for a winning bid of a whopping Rs. 16,347.50 crore.
Apart from broadcasting on television, Star India will stream the VIVO IPL 2018 on Hotstar in Virtual Reality (VR). This immersive VR experience will make it possible for fans to get closer to the high-octane matches from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, viewers will also be able to select camera angles and a commentary language of their choice offering further customisation through the 'Super-fan feed'.
We spoke to Sanjay Gupta, managing director - Star India, on the sidelines of a recent media event held in Gurugram.
What does VIVO IPL 2018 offer viewers?
IPL has been a great sporting event and there are fans spread out all across the globe. Last year, more than 535 million people watched IPL across TVs, mobile phones, laptops and computers. And this year, between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Star Sports, we want to take this VIVO IPL experience live on TV and digital to more than 700 million fans.
The big question was how we could redefine the experience of watching the VIVO IPL for cricket fans. Firstly, this will no longer be just a two-month tournament, but a six-month-long extravaganza that fans will be able to watch. We will be bringing every nuance, every event, every relevant cricketing moment for the next six months to our viewers.
Fans are eagerly waiting for January 27 when the auction, for which 1,122 players have registered, will be brought live to television and Hotstar. We also want to engage with the fans during the auction; hence, fans will, for the first time, be able to have their voices heard by voting for their favourite players at vivoiplelection.hotstar.com. We have launched the 'Election se Selection' campaign on January 16 just for this.
How will IPL on Star be different for the advertisers from previous seasons?
The interplay of TV and Digital offers advertisers an unprecedented opportunity to build brands across platforms. For advertisers, the big change that IPL 2018 offers is that earlier, most of the advertisers were able to advertise and build brands, but were not able to get the performance right. For example, if an advertisement for BYJUs appears while a viewer is watching an IPL match on Hotstar, without interrupting the visual experience, the viewer can seamlessly download the BYJUs app.
What are the digital plans for this edition of IPL? Will Hotstar stream the IPL matches or will you license it to some other interested platform which is ready to pay you a premium?
IPL 2018 will be one of the few sports leagues in the world to bring live Virtual Reality streaming from the stadium where viewers across the country can watch it on smartphones via Hotstar.
Starting from now, we will go behind the scenes showing conversations between players, the strategies they are working on and how they are preparing to become better teams as they compete in VIVO IPL 2018.
This re-imagination is not just limited to television. When we launched Hotstar, we also focussed on the mobility of people. The real joy of watching the IPL is to watch it with your friends and family. This year Hotstar will go social. Fans will be able to check-in from different locations/ cities, but you can watch the same game and engage in a conversation with each other. You will also be able to express your emotions through specially designed emoticons.
Hotstar used to stream a five-minute delay feed of IPL; now that you have the global rights, which include TV and Digital, will you simulcast it?
Since we have both rights (TV and digital), we will simulcast IPL live on Hotstar and television. So, from this year onward, we will not have the five-minute delay anymore.
What are your regional expansion plans?
We are trying to reimagine the way we use languages. We will be relaying VIVO IPL in six different languages - Hindi, Bangla, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, and English. We also want to increase the coverage with deep localisation; hence, the commentary will also be done in regional languages.
How will you monetise the regional language feeds? Will you have separate inventories for the regional brands targeting a particular region?
Since we have seven feeds to ensure more participation from the brands, we will offer them the option of choosing only one feed (one regional language) or a combination of feeds. Hopefully, value creation for bands will be dramatic; given the reach of IPL will go up significantly.
Will Star India invest in creating non-live content around IPL? Do you see an opportunity for non-live sports content to grow in India? At this stage, sports viewership is dominated by live content...
Yes, because people are not interested in just watching a cricket match, they are equally interested in knowing about their sports icons - what they do, how they prepare, how they plan for a match, what they do during their leisure time etc. By partnering with the teams, what we are trying to do is create high-quality content about fans, teams, sportspersons and what they do. And that will have a lot of demand.