Siddharth Sharma, head of content, Viacom18 – sports, talks about LaLiga 2023/24, Viacom18’s focus on football-driven markets and its growth.
Viacom18 is bullish on sports and is gearing up to be the ultimate destination for ‘all sports’ in India. The network launched its dedicated sports TV channel, Sports18, last year along with bagging the rights to two of the biggest sports properties in the world – FIFA and the IPL.
The network is now all set to bring the LaLiga EA Sports, to Indian football fans. The property that went into an extensive rebranding recently, will be broadcasted on Sports18 and JioCinema, and give the fans an immersive audio visual and digital experience.
Focus on football-driven markets
The network that entered the sports broadcasting market with big league properties, is now looking to sustain the clout on the platforms, with a special focus on football-driven markets in India and a pipeline of international sports leagues.
Siddharth Sharma, head of content, Viacom18 – sports, says they are committed to football and plan on deepening the engagement with fans through a robust line up of live properties as well as football-driven content.
“The watch-time in football-heavy markets has doubled because of our various marketing efforts and content measures. That further gives us hope to engage deeply with them. Some of our efforts include doing the El Classico in three Indian languages (besides English), including Hindi, Malayalam and Bangla. We are taking measured steps in understanding where the market is and focus on these markets.”
According to Sharma, FIFA and the IPL have helped them to prepare the groundwork for their journey ahead. Currently, they have an India versus West Indies T20 series going on. This will be followed by the LaLiga, the NBA and then the MotoGP.
Speaking about the vision for the network, Sharma shares, “We want to be wherever sports fan aggregation is. Our goal is to serve as the platform through which fans can actively connect with their favourite sports. We possess a distinctive advantage, acting as the hub where fans from various sports and disciplines converge, fostering an environment free from biases.”
The Star Network has bagged the broadcasting rights to the ICC World Cup 2023. On the competition in the space, Sharma says that they are quite confident about their portfolio.
“Sports is really cyclical. The nature of the rights and businesses is such that there will be times when the rights will be with other networks. Then there will be times when the rights will be with us. So, we don’t see that as something that’s really going to take the fans away.”
“We have a high number of leagues as well as engaging content throughout the year. That is enough for us to keep fans engaged and create enough persuasions for them to come.”
During IPL 2023, many viewers seemed to be unaware about the tournament being aired on JioCinema.
Asked if there is a gap, when it comes to marketing their properties, Sharma states, “During the Cricket World Test Championship in June this year, we noticed a number of people coming to our platform, because they thought we will be airing it. That’s normal behaviour. Everybody will go to a place where they think it’s a default. However, brand awareness exists. Everybody knows that JioCinema is the home for sports and entertainment.”
He adds that they are also focussing on serving sports-related original content like interviews and expert discussions to draw further viewership from enthusiastic fans.