Anirban Roy Choudhury

"World over Football driven by subscription revenue": Rajesh Kaul

Sony Pictures Networks India is gearing up for the broadcast of the Champions League final to be played in the 'Metropolitano Stadium' in Madrid.

The premier football tournament where all of Europe's top clubs tussle against each other, the UEFA Champions League, has reached its final stage. With only two matches left before the finals, official broadcaster of the tournament in India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) has upped the ante to promote the broadcast of the final match. The broadcaster has associated with Farhan Akhtar, UEFA's official guest from India, to release its "My Reasons to Watch UEFA Champions League" campaign.

The films feature fans across age groups and genders stating various reasons why they would want to watch the broadcast of the game to be played on June 1, 2019, at the 'Metropolitano Stadium' in Madrid, Spain.

"World over Football driven by subscription revenue": Rajesh Kaul

Bollywood celebrity Farhan Akhtar (right) to watch the UEFA Champions League Finals in Spain in June, pictured with Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer - Distribution and Head - Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India

"The tournament experienced a considerable jump in viewership and we have seen a 79 per cent growth over the previous season," says, Rajesh Kaul, chief revenue officer, distribution and head - sports business, SPNI. He attributed the growth in viewership to Sony's marketing efforts and the rise in popularity of the sport due to the FIFA World Cup played in Russia in 2018. "The FIFA world cup got newer audiences to watch the sport. Also, this year, UEFA made a special effort to have 12 games telecast at prime time in India at 10.30 pm while earlier, all games were played and broadcast at around 12:30 am. This was done to ensure that we get better sampling and that helped in growing the viewership," adds Kaul.

"World over Football driven by subscription revenue": Rajesh Kaul

Rajesh Kaul and Farhan Akhtar, UEFA's official guest from India with the UEFA Champions League finals ticket

The growth of viewership, however, in the case of football, is not directly proportionate to the growth in advertising revenue. The sport does not have any breaks during play time for broadcasters to fit ads. The half-time break at the end of the first 45 minutes are the most expensive slots sold to advertisers. The broadcasters also create wrap-around studio shows, before and after the match, to create inventories. Kaul believes the economics are different when it comes to football. "Football as a sport, all over the world, is driven more by subscription revenue rather than advertising. We are very happy with the way the subscription revenue has been growing," he says.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) new tariff order where consumers subscribe to the channels they want to watch instead of subscribing to all that cable operators offer, has been implemented nationwide. So would this new regulatory regime help or harm the subscription revenue? Kaul, who also looks after the distribution business of the network, feels it is too early to comment. "The broadcasters are still not getting complete visibility of what is happening on the ground. Only once we get that would we be in a position to comment. But as of now, going by the numbers we are getting, I don't see a major impact," asserts Kaul.

As a part of the various marketing initiatives, Sony partnered with PVR Cinemas to screen the Champions League final on multiplexes in Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, and Chennai. Spanish giants Barcelona FC and Dutch club Ajax already have a foot in the finals after winning the first leg of the semi-finals against English club Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspurs, respectively. The second leg of both the semis will be played on May 8 and 9 (12.30 am).

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