POV: Can other sports channels survive in a cricket crazy nation?

By Nandana Das , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | September 19, 2011
Ten Sports launched a football channel last year. Zee is going for golf this year. Can other sports channels make a dent in a country where cricket dominates?

Prasana Krishnan
Chief operating officer, Neo Sports Broadcast

Cricket dominates the economics of sports, and it will continue to take the largest chunk of revenues. But, there is an encouraging trend of growth in other sports.

Indian success stories in golf, tennis or badminton are already visible, and this is leading to a steady increase in a following for these sports. Hockey continues to hold fans, particularly in semi-urban and rural India. Football is now showing good traction in other parts of the country, beyond the traditional strongholds of Bengal, Kerala, Goa and Punjab.

But, it needs to be noted that the numbers are still small when compared with cricket. Ad revenues for these sports are even lower. In the short run, I don't see any major surge in revenues for other sports channels. But, there is a steady growth and the trend is positive.

Sudha Natrajan
Deputy chief executive officer, Lintas Media Group

Sports channels are likely to see ad spends to the tune of Rs 2,800 crore for the calendar year 2011. These channels are likely to enjoy a 20-25 per cent share of the TV ad spend pie of Rs 10,500 crore in 2011, against a viewership share of 4.3 per cent on an overall 4 yrs+ CS audience.

Cricket will account for 75-80 per cent of the sports ad spend in 2011, growing at a CAGR of 30 per cent. But, channels like ESPN and STAR Sports have always had a healthy mix of cricket and non-cricket programming which has delivered results for them.

The most important factor in supporting the launch of dedicated channels for other sports is the fact that the live content on football, tennis, F1 and golf have fetched ad revenues of Rs 465 crore in the first half of the year, while the acquisition cost of this content would probably be 1/10th of the cost of acquiring live cricket telecast rights.

Aloke Malik
Managing director, ESPN Software India

The Indian sports fan is maturing fast with an increasing level of acceptance for other sports. It is this acceptance that is moving sponsors to look upon other sports as a good investment option.

The consumption growth pattern of sports categories like motor sports or golf has been consistent and it still has the potential to grow multi-fold. The Indian market is huge, dynamic, and replete with opportunities. The emerging middle class has the power to buy, and thus the power to commit to leisure.

We also see huge potential for HD Sports networks. Fans want to be up close to the action and there's no better way to experience the visual splendour. We have received positive responses from consumers during the special HD feeds of FIFA World Cup 2010, and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.

Meenakshi Madhvani
Managing partner, Spatial Access

No! India has always been a cricket crazy nation, and will continue to be so. Almost every hot-blooded male knows everything there is to know about cricket -- the stats, the gossip, even the technicalities like the Duckworth Lewis, or the newer ones like Hot Spot and Hawk Eye.

The overall interest levels of the masses for other sports are abysmal compared to that of cricket. This reflects in the viewership patterns of the sports channels. Over 90 per cent of the time spent on live sporting events telecast is on cricket alone. The rest is split among other sports.

Sports like football and F1 do have a fan base, but that is largely restricted to the upwardly mobile. These channels will have to fight for the remaining 10 per cent. Advertisers would use other sports only when the interest levels increase significantly. If the channels need ad revenue to survive, their future is very dim.

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