Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

Football helps boost annual subscriptions and ad revenue: SonyLIV's Ranjana Mangla

For Euro 2024, it is introducing "Golden Break"- a strategically placed 60-second break right before the match begins, featuring multiple brands. 

The 17th edition of the European Championships or Euro will be streamed on Sony LIV and broadcasted on Sony Sports from June 14. The tournament is part of Sony Pictures Networks India's (SPNI) bid to become the 'Home of Football' in India. Earlier in March 2024, the network renewed its exclusive media rights deal with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for another three seasons until 2026-2027. As part of the agreement, it will be airing over 1,600 football matches, spanning the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Conference League, UEFA Super Cup, and UEFA Youth League, for three seasons. Apart from these, the network also holds the rights to the Nations League, Bundesliga, Emirates FA Cup and Saudi Pro League. 

Football is a crucial sport for SonyLIV and the streaming platform has had a longstanding investment in it. This investment brings twofold benefits. First, it boosts its year-long subscriptions by building a loyal audience base on Sony Liv. Second, it enhances its monetisation through ads, creating unique branding opportunities for advertisers. 

While major tentpole sporting properties like Euro 2024 bring a spike in subscriptions, the platform’s year-round football content ensures it has annual subscribers and provides a consistent audience for advertisers. 

Ranjana Mangla, head – senior vice president, head of ad revenue, SonyLIV, SPNI, says, “The sustained viewership ensures that our large clients remain loyal to us. Our core strategy focuses on maintaining a steady, engaged audience through continuous investment in football.”

For brands, football offers a more targeted audience compared to cricket. The sport appeals to sectors like BFSI, auto, insurance, beverages, and fashion and apparel. While they partner with the platform year-round, their interest peaks during major events like the Euro. "Football is a little sharper for a brand. It's not really spray and pray like the now highly commoditised cricket,” she says.

However, football broadcasts come with a challenge for advertisers. Unlike cricket, which offers advertisers multiple breaks, football has only one 15-minute break at half-time. Mangla says that, given that football matches are only 90 to 120 minutes long, most viewers stay engaged throughout, providing an excellent opportunity for brand exposure. 

“We keep the break exciting for fans by avoiding full-scale commercial breaks. Instead, we run a mid-show with engaging content to maintain the game's momentum. Football fans are passionate and want comprehensive coverage, so this mid-show becomes an appealing feature. This balance of content and brief commercial breaks creates a win-win for brands, allowing them to connect with football fans effectively while keeping viewers engaged with compelling content,” she adds.

To optimise brand engagement, it is also offering multiple opportunities within its studio shows. This year, it is introducing the Golden Break, a strategically placed 60-second break right before the match begins, featuring multiple brands. 

“This aims to ensure brands aren't lost in the longer 15-minute break and maximise their visibility,” she adds.

The sport attracts a distinct audience profile. Its viewers are no longer just premium audiences and it has become a massy sport. Mangla says around 35% of people, particularly in younger demographics, prefer watching football over cricket, committing to entire matches. This dedicated viewership provides a valuable opportunity for brands to engage with a focused and passionate audience.

“The football fanbase is highly loyal and advertisers recognise it as an effective way to reach India's youth, particularly males in metro and semi-urban areas,” she adds.

Football is a little sharper for a brand. It's not really spray and pray like the now highly commoditised cricket.
Ranjana Mangla, head – senior vice president, head of ad revenue, SonyLIV, SPNI

Historically, football has been popular in various regions of India, particularly the east and parts of the south. In the last decade, efforts by the football community have significantly boosted the sport's popularity across metros. Cities like Mumbai and the Delhi NCR region now view football as a major sport. 

“While the east and south remain strongholds, the north and west are also showing strong engagement, especially in the top 20 cities, including metros and tier-two towns. This widespread appeal has helped cover almost the entire country, solidifying football's prominence,” she says.

The Euro 2024 matches will be available in six languages - English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Bengali. Adding regional languages to football broadcasts has significantly expanded its audience, attracting more viewers from diverse regions. Currently, nearly 40% of its audience comes from regional language broadcasts, particularly in certain states. It aims to continue increasing the number of languages offered.

The network has been UEFA’s partner for over 15 years now. The football association has been with Sony for the last seven years, but earlier it was with Ten Sports, which was acquired by Sony. Mangla says football is the second most followed sport in India, with an estimated 150 to 200 million people playing or engaging with it at various levels. She says the network has played a huge role in growing the fan base of the sport in India.

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