What's the future of another sports channel?

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing
Last updated : April 06, 2012
Six, the sports channel from the MSM stable, will skew towards the younger audience set in the age bracket of 18-34 years, male and female. It will offer a mix of entertainment and sports, wherein the content will include mixed martial arts, basketball, football and badminton. Will such content find enough takers in the market?

Multi Screen Media (MSM) is finally ready to launch Six, its eighth channel from the bouquet, on April 7. Six will skew towards the younger audience set in the age bracket of 18-34 years, male and female "who are enthusiastic to adopt new sports". It will look to offer a mix of entertainment and sports, wherein the content will include mixed martial arts, basketball, football and badminton.

To begin with, MSM has signed a four-year agreement with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to broadcast UFC programming in India and the rest of the sub-continent. As per the deal, Six will showcase mixed martial arts to Indian audiences by airing live UFC events, taped specials and other content from the UFC library.

NP Singh

Man Jit Singh

Rajni Menon

Indranil Das Blah

Amit Ray

Six will also have the FIFA qualifiers live on the channel, the FA Cup (currently on Pix), NBA (currently on Pix), the Indian Open Badminton (that begins during the third week of this month) and the ATP Tour 250 (for tennis). There will also be the Women's Boxing Championship. MSM, meanwhile, plans to shift IPL to Six from next year onwards.

Six is yet to find a new business head. For now, it will function under the direct supervision of NP Singh, COO, MSM.

When quizzed on why Six chooses to showcase such sport content, Singh tells afaqs!, "We intend to introduce new sport content to the Indian audiences through this channel. It is expected to give our network a broader base and attract new audiences."

Man Jit Singh, CEO, MSM, says, "The channel will be launched with UFC Mixed Martial Arts and the best of the first four seasons of the DLF IPL as the key driver properties." For the record, MSM is expected to launch the HD feed of the channel in the next two months.

So, will such a content mix find success?

The launch of Sony's sports channel appears to be attracting mixed reactions from the market.

While a few note that the success of the channel is quite unlikely in a market like India, there are a few who are optimistic that Six could eventually become a success story, provided the content supply is supported with quality and good packaging.

Rajni Menon, assistant vice-president, Carat India, says, "When one refers to any sport in India, it's still broadly limited to cricket. Six is just one more addition to the already existing niche channels in this country. However, one cannot deny that even within that niche, one can create affinity and engagement. If MSM is ready to invest in the right kind of series (apart from the IPL) which can capture that audience affinity, then eventually the channel could find takers."

Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, KWAN, meanwhile, notes that even specialised cricket channels (such as Neo Cricket or STAR Cricket) are struggling to find a balance between their content buy and ROIs.

"No one is interested in old IPL content anymore and as for badminton, audiences are only interested in Saina Nehwal. Even there, the TRPs are pretty negligible. Martial art is too niche content for a country like India today and will take at least two-three years to build. Basketball again has a very niche audience and has not grown much in India. The matches take place on Monday mornings, which slows down the viewership of the game even further," he explains.

Meanwhile, many note that football, and especially the FA Cup, could find 'decent' takers in the market.

However, Amit Ray, media consultant and ex-president, Lintas Media Group, is hopeful that the channel will eventually find strength in the market but it will have to 'burn' for a while before it achieves its success.

"Most of the niche sport content shown on television is syndicated. While the channel will find its initial viewership appeal and support from the repeat value of the IPL, it can eventually witness growth in viewership and revenues if it chooses to keep the content cost low through syndication," he notes.

According to media experts, Six will take at least four-five years to break-even.

The other existing channels in the bouquet include Sony (MSM's flagship Hindi GEC), Max (Hindi movie channel), Pix (English movie channel), Mix (music channel), SAB TV (the second GEC from MSM that specialises in family comedy entertainment), AXN (English entertainment) and Animax (kid's entertainment channel).

First Published : April 06, 2012
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