Suffice to say cricket is more than just a sport in India. It is, for lack of better phrasing, akin to a religion. And while people had only the radio or TV to follow the excitement 10 years ago, things have dramatically changed now with a rise in technology and digital media. Apart from Cable or regular television programming, fans can now watch cricket on OTT platforms such as Hotstar and SonyLIV. Should there be bandwidth issues while commuting, followers can resort to apps such as ESPNcricinfo, Cricbuzz or even Google, whichever is faster in giving them updates.
Here's a look at what experts from the industry say about the role Google, TV, streaming services, and apps play in the world of cricket scores.
Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network, South Asia
There is no doubt that everybody wants to watch sports on a large screen first, that's the first preference. But people today, particularly the younger audience and office-goers are on the move, therefore, a lot of viewing has shifted online and that's an increasing trend. A few years ago, people in offices would assemble in a room at lunchtime when an important match was on, but today, not a single person can be seen in that room because they are watching it on their mobile or laptop.
Bandwidth, in general, has been improving significantly and rates of data are falling, particularly with Jio coming in, solving some of the problems. Hence, people can watch a match on Hotstar or SonyLIV, easily. Of course, on Hotstar, the other issue is that if you are a free subscriber, you are going to get lag and watch for a shorter time. You have to be a paid subscriber to get full benefits, although many people do not pay for subscriptions for online content. Non-subscribers have no option but to go to other apps or google the scores and that's the individual role each of these platforms play.
Uday Sodhi, business head - digital, Sony Pictures Networks India (SonyLIV)
Taking into account the overall internet audience - 450+ million users, people watching videos on OTT apps constitute 250 million. Even out of the 250 million, not everyone is watching the entire match on digital. A lot of them are watching it on TV as well. The combination we see is what the use cases for digital cricket viewing are. During the Fifa World Cup, we realised that people, when they were transiting or not in front of the TV, they still watched it on SonyLIV. Even when in front of a TV set during family viewing time, everyone didn't want to watch football yet, the youngster in the house was watching it on SonyLIV. We also got amazing viewership on the Amazon Fire Stick, Android TV apps and Chromecast.
I don't think there is one homogenous consumer out there nor is there a single-quality bandwidth that every consumer gets, everywhere in the country. I also don't think everybody has the same model handset in terms of the ability to watch and the quality one would get on that phone. There is a significant growth happening in the OTT space, but is it a replacement for TV? No, it isn't. Is it an additional screen? Yes, it is. And does it become a second screen for most people? Probably, when they are moving it is their first screen and at home, it becomes a second screen. Different people view it differently.
Akshaya Kolhe, director - sales, ESPN Digital Media India (ESPNcricinfo)
Television is a lean-back medium, where you want to get together and watch a match or when you are at leisure and follow sports with your friends. Even for the highest rated match like a semi-final or final of an ICC World Cup, peak TVR ( Now TVT) of 14-16 transpires to just 10 percent of the total tuneable audience or reach. Which echoes that TV is not the only medium to follow cricket. India is probably one of the unique markets where TV is growing along with digital. However, digital is growing at a much faster rate while TV still remains the most dominant medium.
Talking of digital which essentially is a lean-forward medium. The way fan consumes content and cricket scores on app/sites like ESPNcricinfo is unique, moving from scores to live stats to smart analytics seamlessly. If you are streaming on Hotstar, you can easily switch over and check scores or even watch replays. For us, fans are alive (and online) 24 x 7 and we cater to all his needs of knowing the game, live scores, analytics, entertaining videos and beyond.
Within the digital system during a live match, streaming is where you can watch a match and digital where you can read the ball-by-ball commentary, both have their fun and many times compliment each other.
Pratik Gupta, co-founder, Foxymoron
India still is a one-TV-a-home phenomenon. Instead of it becoming two TVs, Indians are now using mobile phones as a second screen. So, if a person is at home or at work, they use streaming services via Wi-Fi to watch the match. If a person is in a social situation where they are not able to get great internet access, they use Google, Cricinfo or Cricbuzz for quick updates. The difference between Google and ESPNcricinfo is that the latter gives a more detailed analysis like ball-by-ball commentary, they have also integrated Twitter and small videos. For people who want just an update, Google is the next best option. However, with voice search becoming popular 'assistants' like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, who have become an important source of information dissemination as even while you are doing other things, one is enable to simply ask for the score and get it. According to statistics, America is doing about 400 billion voice searches per month, India is catching onto this trend too.
I don't think our streaming services are bad at all; in fact I have seen streaming services abroad and our services are at par with them. India's infrastructure for internet connectivity however, is still poor. We still have one of the slowest 4G networks in the world. Unfortunately, the OTT platforms can't do anything about it. But Jio has done a good job of increasing the amount of time people spend on these apps by increasing the overall data affordability. I would look at streaming services as a second screen, ESPNcricinfo and Cricbuzz as intermediate cases where you get more information and Google as a worst-case scenario and, I believe, voice search for scores is the future.
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