Benita Chacko

Viacom18 attempts to widen La Liga’s audience base in India; key matches to be aired on Sports18 Khel

The Hindi free-to-air sports channel will help the Spanish football league penetrate deeper into its core audience sets across the country.

La Liga’s next El Clásico match, to be held on October 15, and other upcoming key matches will also be broadcast on Sports18 Khel, Viacom18’s Hindi sports channel. Through this, it aims to broaden its fan base across the country.

Siddharth Sharma
Siddharth Sharma

“By getting La Liga's El Clásico audience set on our free-to-air channel we are widening the funnel for sports consumption. We are in advanced talks with La Liga on how we can reach out to the strongholds of football viewership and give these core audiences a better experience,” said Siddharth Sharma, head of content, TV & Digital, Viacom18 Sports.

It also intends to offer its non-live programming in other languages so that it can go beyond the traditional football hotbeds like Kerala, West Bengal, Goa and North East. “We have an exhaustive non-live offering in English and Hindi. We will soon expand it to other languages as well. We are looking to engage fans when there is no live coverage on the network,” he added.

Viacom18 partnered with the Spanish football league last year to exclusively broadcast the matches to the Indian sub-continent for the next 3 years. In 2021 it aired exclusively on MTV and live-streamed on Voot and Jio platforms. With Viacom18 launching its sports channel this year, the 2022-23 season, which started last month, is being broadcast on its English channel Sports18, VootSelect and JioTV.

In India, traditionally, the English Premier League (EPL) is significantly more popular than La Liga. With the network airing some of the key La Liga matches on the free-to-air Hindi sports channel, it gives it an opportunity to gain as much popularity as EPL does among the masses. It can penetrate deeper into the football strongholds in different parts of the country.

The massive popularity of the El Clásico matches, which are played between rival clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, will ensure high viewership. These matches offer an ideal opportunity for the network to reach out to its core audiences beyond the English-speaking viewers.

“We are trying to reach out to the catchments where a massive core audience is present. We are also looking at new ways of entering regions where there is potential for growth,” Sharma said.

It is interesting to note that before Viacom18 won the broadcasting rights for the Spanish league, the matches were live-streamed on Facebook. The social media giant won the broadcast rights for three years in 2018, replacing Sony. This meant the viewing was restricted only to people who had Facebook accounts and smartphones or smart TV. This left out a huge section of the country. In contrast, airing these matches on a free-to-air channel as well brings in a much wider audience.

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