Vodafone India has announced a strategic partnership with STAR India to create a multi-sports offering - Vodafone Sports portal on Vodafone Live. As per the partnership, Vodafone consumers can now subscribe to a mobile internet service for score updates and video clips for the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and some other sports events.
Customers using Vodafone Sports will also have access to an exhaustive array of legal, unadulterated content at their fingertips, including all the latest news, trivia, scores and results, instant access to live matches, interactive video scorecards, exclusive insight and analysis, columns, photos and wallpapers across sports. The interactive video scorecard, for example, will allow users to watch the fall of a wicket or replay individual innings highlights for a particular player right from the scorecard.
The deal comes after STAR announced last month that it had licensed the digital distribution rights for the 2014 edition of IPL from Times Internet, the digital arm of The Times of India Group.
Sanjay Gupta, COO, STAR India, says, "Our ambition is to the shape the future of entertainment on a mobile screen; sports is the first big initiative for us. Starsports.com has already set a new standard for sports fans hungry to consume sports without being tied to their television. This partnership will bring the power of our service to a whole new audience."
As per Gupta, STAR is beginning with sports right now, and will build it deeper with entertainment content. "Fundamentally, we need to provide good quality content to our consumer fans. Ideally, I would like to reach out to every possible person in this country but as I said, the reason we have partnered with Vodafone is because they are both nimble and innovative. If I could, then I would partner with other telecom operators too but I am not sure how many telecom operators are in sync with Vodafone's vision and thinking in terms of reaching out to consumers and providing them meaningful content," he adds.
Speaking about the target audience of the service, Vivek Mathur, chief commercial officer, Vodafone India states that the TG is pretty wide. "We have broadly defined it as all sports lovers and to that extent we will discover as we go along. We expect early adoption to happen by smartphone consumers in the larger towns but we expect very rapid circulation to happen. And finally, this service will become more relevant for customers in smaller towns. As always, it starts with larger towns and then percolates. They spread faster because of word of mouth," he adds.
Though majority of content will be free, some live matches, events which have happened in last couple of days, and other special activities put together will be priced accordingly. The pricing is divided into three plans - Snack Pricing Plan, 'All you can eat' plan and Subscription.
The Snack Plan allows users to watch a match at Rs 10-20; watch a video clip at Rs 3-5 and also adorn a home screen with cricket wallpapers at Rs 3. The 'All You Can Eat' plan comes at prices of Rs 49, 99 and 150 for an individual series and also allows users to watch archived video clips at Rs 30-50.
Under the Subscription plan, users are allowed to access special videos at Rs 5 a day to Rs 150 a month.
Mathur further believes that the pricing needs to be very carefully watched out and that's why Vodafone is offering various services where users can buy into a match, or on a monthly/daily basis. "At this stage we are looking at it as a standalone service and don't intend to bundle it with other offerings. But it's possible that at some stage, we might bundle it with some of our premium offerings. Bundling also gets value only when stand-alone holds value. Our first focus would be getting a large number of subscribers for this service on making this popular and finding value for this," he adds.
STAR has committed to invest Rs 20,000 crore in developing the sports genre. "The total time spent on content today is close to four and a half hours. In a country like the US or the UK, it's 5-6 hours. In this country, a lot of content consumption will happen on devices because of small and single TV households, and multiple people wanting to consume content. Digital consumption will grow dramatically. Users of internet on mobile are more male and young viewers who have better propensity towards content like sports and movies, that's where the consumption is highest but I feel as the mobile phones penetrate deeper, this consumption will cut across all demographics," states Gupta.
Launched in June 2013, STAR's sports service on the mobile, Starsports.com has become the go-to destination for following the best of international sports. The company has also built an advanced technology infrastructure that enables HD quality streaming across multiple devices.
Other than the digital rights of IPL, STAR India also owns the rights to all Champions League T20 and some ICC tournaments. It is also the title sponsor of BCCI's international and domestic matches from October 2013 to March 2014. STAR India also won the sponsorship rights for the Indian cricket team in December after the BCCI disqualified the Sahara group.