In an interaction with afaqs!, Rajesh Kaul, chief revenue officer – distribution & international business and head – Sports business, Sony Pictures Networks India talks about the network’s growth and its affiliation with tennis
Sony Sports Network is the home to three out of the four Grand Slams, the Australian Open, Roland-Garros, US Open, along with the Davis Cup. The brand has also recently roped in tennis star, Sania Mirza as the brand ambassador.
Speaking about the reason behind the network’s affiliation with tennis at such a level, Rajesh Kaul, chief revenue officer – distribution & international business and head – Sports business, Sony Pictures Networks India says, they want to position themselves as the home of tennis in India.
Viewership and monetisation of tennis in India
According to Kaul, tennis has a sizable following in India, with close to 100 million viewers watching the sport on TV during 2022. He says the Northeast, Maharashtra/Goa, TN/ Pondicherry and AP/Telangana are the top markets that contribute close to two-thirds of tennis ratings in India.
Kaul says one factor that has contributed to the growth of tennis viewership in India is the broadcast of the sport in local languages.
“Hindi, Tamil and Telugu commentary contributed close to 35% of the viewership of Australian Open, Roland Garros and US Open in 2022. Australian Open consistently has been among the top watched grand slams in India. It was watched by close to 20 million viewers in 2023,” says Kaul.
Kaul states that Grand Slams attract sizable premium audiences who also display a high degree of engagement with the content. “Over the last few years tennis Grand Slams have seen an increased interest from advertisers from categories like automobiles, mobile handsets, BFSI, lifestyle and more. On ground association of brands with these grand slams becomes an interesting proposition for the brand in India as well for example Renault, Rolex etc,” he adds.
Beyond cricket and Tennis
As per Kaul, although cricket enjoys an unparalleled viewership in India, the investments are high. “Our focus at Sony Sports Network is to run a successful and profitable business and that is always at the core of our acquisition strategy and that is why we have invested in both cricket as well as marquee events across other sports like UEFA EURO 2024 & 2028, three tennis Grand Slams, UEFA Champions League, WWE, UFC, Asian Games and more. This has led to us becoming a very successful sports network in the country,” he says.
He says that the local language feeds have exponentially increased the viewership of other sports too which are in turn adding value to the advertisers.
“Sports is different from other genres on TV, with viewership being driven by individual events. In the past few years, multiple non cricket sports properties have experienced exponential growth on our sports channels. Average impressions for the live matches of Euro 2020 was more than 3 times that of UEFA EURO 2016. Similarly, reach for Tennis grand slams like the US Open and Roland Garros has grown by 579% and 303% respectively after moving to our network. Properties like Prime Volleyball League have also experienced strong growth of 54% in terms of average impressions. The Tokyo Olympics 2020 live matches coverage on our network achieved 450 million gross impressions - the highest for any Olympics telecast on Indian Pay TV channels, 23% higher than the Rio Olympics, and adding a serious value proposition for advertisers.”
“We will continue our momentum of providing the best sports action from across the world while running a profitable business which is our core strategy while acquiring the media rights of various sports events,” he states.