a bad year for sports in India," said LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research, while speaking at brandscore, the sports marketing forum organised jointly by ESPN STAR Sports and MindShare. He didn't need to explain his statement too much; the ICC World Cup disaster this year is a fine case in point. While the World Cup was a one-off event, Krishnan pointed out that the share of sports across genres of television content is dipping consistently (at present, sports can claim only a 5 per cent share of viewers).
"Soaps on GECs (general entertainment channels) have a greater stickiness factor than any sport, even cricket," Krishnan observed. As per an average half hour computed across sports as a genre and GECs, TAM observed that a bulk amount of time was spent on watching the latter, while only seven-eight minutes were spent on sports channels. "However, we also found that wrestling as a sport retains viewers up to a large extent," added Krishnan. Further, sports stickiness almost touches that of soaps when India is playing an important match.
But almost as an antithesis, he went on to cite the positives of sports in India: the fact that in one sweep, it reaches a large viewer base can't be ignored. A single series has the capacity to reach out to almost 60 per cent of India's population. Even in the FIFA World Cup 2006, where India figured practically nowhere in the ranks, at one point, the event touched a 50 per cent reach amongst television audiences in the country. In the field of racing, too, while F1 rules, bike racing garners a 25 per cent reach. "Such sports offer the advantage of segmented audience profiles," said Krishnan. One can decide whether one wishes to target the youth (through tennis, for instance) or even which rung of the SEC is preferable (bike racing would attract the higher SECs, while wrestling also attracts the lower SEC segment).
Interestingly, although sports are skewed towards men, 35 per cent of sports viewership can be attributed to women, Krishnan revealed. Sports also has the capacity to eat into other genres of television, including GEC primetimes! During an important match when India is playing, GEC shares tend to fall by 30-40 per cent.
Krishnan pointed out that despite all this, there was a lot that needed to be done in terms of revamping sports content. "There needs to be some amount of dramatisation of events," he said. This can be done by focusing on a protagonist (a star player, a commentator, or even a good versus evil story), emotions (through words and visuals), action (portraying dynamism, heroism), perhaps a local hero story which becomes a living room favourite, and hype (pre-match news/results coverage on television, magazines and newspapers). In addition to this, sports content should also be made interactive or participative, with SMSes and call-in options, if need be. "Shows such as 'The Shaz and Waz Show' and 'Extraa Innings' are perfect examples of that," Krishnan said.
He concluded with the thought that sports should move away from the commodity area (people coming in just to check the score), to an engagement one (a heightened sense of drama - the perfect manifestation of which are the MAX 'Deewana Bana De' campaigns).