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"It's the first time a sports broadcaster will dedicate eight channels to one tournament": Nitin Kukreja, CEO, Star Sports, on Rio Olympics

By Anirban Roy Choudhury , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | June 17, 2016
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The tournament is scheduled to take place between August 5-21. Hotstar will stream the tournament for free.

Non-cricketing sports in India are no longer a few flying bubbles. In the past two years, the advent of Kabaddi, football, and wrestling leagues in India has very much made such sports as part of mainstream events in the sports circuit. But, the biggest extravaganza of non-cricket sports are the Olympic Games, and Star India is all set for the coverage of Rio Olympics 2016.

The broadcaster has acquired the rights of television, as well as the digital broadcasting rights for seven South-Asian countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It will stream the matches live on Hotstar and Starsports.com.

Nitin Kukreja

Ajit Mohan

"This is the first time any sports broadcaster will dedicate eight channels for the coverage of one tournament. We will also have round-the-clock coverage with major focus on those sports where India has the potential to win a medal. The overall idea is to respect the stature of the Olympics and make sure that not even a single second is missed. Clubbed with digital, this will be the world's best coverage of the tournament," asserts Nitin Kukreja, CEO, Star Sports.

The world's best means better than the likes of NBC and other global broadcasters, so, how is Star going to be different? Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar, quickly draws attention to the digital coverage. "I don't think any digital player across the globe has made the digital streaming free for consumers. We will have 14 live feeds available round-the-clock, and at any given time, it may go up to 36. Hotstar will also have a new Olympics Video Player through which consumers can get data and stats immediately," says Mohan.

Hotstar has recently started the premium subscription model and put the 'Game of Thrones' in the subscription model. There is a catalogue of movies, too, which can only be accessed if subscribed. But, the digital medium has decided to not put the Olympic coverage in the subscription model.

"The decision to put it for free is in the best interests of the viewers. What Hotstar has done in the last 15 months is spectacular, and the perception that India is not ready for streaming is nullified now. All the India cricket matches will be put under the subscription model henceforth, which will see a serious growth in the next 12 months," says Mohan.

A senior media expert though believes that the decision to put it for free is to enable the package-selling of both TV and digital. "Multi-sports events like the Olympics give you hardly any breather to accommodate ads. Hence, the broadcasters are package-selling their inventories," adds the expert.

As per norm, it is mandatory for Star to share the feed with Doordarshan, and it often happens that due to rural data and Free Dish presence, DD ends up raking more viewership than Star. Kukreja doesn't consider this as a problem. "This adds to the viewership and enhances the reach of the tournament which is a great positive. The Olympics for us is much beyond ad rates and viewership. It is a milestone moment in the history of Star Sports, and we want to depict the pride and passion of the athletes," he says.

Hotstar and Star Sports are running a joint marketing campaign #Isse Bada Kuch Nahi, which was rolled out on June 16, and which targets a pan-India audience. "A championship like the Olympics has no particular target audience. Hence, the campaign is targetted pan-India. The brief is to communicate the pride and honour involved in it. And, the campaign tries to do that," says Kukreja.

"At some point of time we will communicate the ad on the features available on Hotstar and for that we may create an individual creative," adds Mohan.

The creative agency involved in the creation of the campaign is Saints and Warriors. The Star Sports marketing team has conceptualised the campaign.

The Rio Olympics will be broadcast in Hindi and English. The tournament kick starts on August 5, and will continue until August 21.

So, will the India coverage become a victim of odd coverage, and does the threat of low viewership loom large on the broadcaster? "Contrary to the perception, I think most of the key matches will be played between 4 pm and 12 am and these are not bad timings. Moreover, people who are passionate about the game will tune in for it irrespective of the time. I don't see time as an issue."

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