Are we headed for a sports broadcasting 'Duopoly' in India?

As a nation, India has evolved significantly in sports broadcasting. With unbounded technological progress nipping away at our heels, a digital evolution was a long time coming, especially in the Indian subcontinent. The sporting world has all its eyes on the recent SPN̶̶-ZEEL deal, an acquisition that will leverage, consolidate and crucially enhance the relationship between right-holder, broadcaster and the fan. Truly, India has launched itself to transforming into a sporting nation to reckon with. 

Content and consolidation will drive and scale up distribution and reach for both – network(s) within India and the subcontinent. 

This acquisition is a major win and a penetration peak for SPN. It can now break into hitherto untapped territories and consolidate content from a far-‘reaching’ perspective. The world is in a frenzied state of “digital data drive” and this drive is only going to escalate. Our broadcasting output is changing every day. Last two decades has seen Single TV households changing their viewing environs from terrestrial TV to cable and satellite. The big daddies of the DTH universe are all moving towards consolidating the reality of second and third screen-driven ecosystems.

Taking stock of things, Star India has the telecast rights of BCCI, ICC, Cricket Australia, English Cricket Board, Formula 1, EPL and tennis Grand Slams like Wimbledon and the French Open. In addition to this, Star has significant rights to the local sports leagues like ISL, PKL, PBL, HIL and IPTL. 

SPN, on the other hand, proudly holds the rights to FIFA, UEFA, Euro, NBA and UFC on the international circuit. Through this landmark deal with TEN Sports, SPN now has an open-door all-access pass to the media rights of numerous golfing events as well as the rights to the cricket boards of African countries, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Pakistan. In the tennis world, they own the first and the last Grand Slams of the year – Australian Open and the US open, respectively. However, in India, IPL remains their biggest marquee acquisition despite being up for renewal post the 2017 season.

The sports broadcast gladiatorial arena thus will soon witness a veritable battle between these two. With two key players running neck and neck towards the finish line, it’s a race that changes the environment and brings about a scale-up in distribution and revenue.

The network that makes itself more accessible, more consumable and creates, builds and sustains real-time conversations while enhancing fan experience will emerge as the monarch in a currently duopolistic condition. The focus on Digital India, the technological and revenue-right prowess of the two key network players should reveal some of the answers in the times to come. Data will play a pivotal role in making sports content more consumable and build real-time conversations around enhancing fan experience and build higher level stickiness and relevance. 

This phenomenon is aptly called ‘Datagiri’ – big data is the big dada, and it will outpace the traditional broadcast model soon enough. With live sports streaming and on-the-spot digital consumption through various media platforms such as Hotstar and Sony Liv may look to rise to the top with the Usain Bolt speed, a certain aggression and a prepared relevantly stronger digital interface.

The digital ecosystem experiences an amplification of connections at an exponential rate. Every day, there is a new surge in distribution and a revamping of the “traditional” model since consumers are establishing newer ways and means of connecting with their favorite sports. After all, the name of the game is “enhanced fan experience”. The Rio Olympics displayed this very digital omnipresence – it was up to the fans to consume sports data, whenever, however, and in whichever way suited them best. The power was at the consumer’s fingertips.

Some questions though surface strongly -- Will data-driven content-providers compete with the traditional broadcast platforms? Will telecom players drive and build the next billion sports consumers? Will the definition of the 1st screen economy change?  These are just some of the questions that will be answered in times to come. 

In summary, it promises an exciting time for the Sports Fan. The sports fan will share its limelight with no one; he or she will be at the centrestage of the best sporting live action. It will be served on a platter for his or her gluttonous consumption – peppered with analytic appetisers and tantalizing trivia, thus cinching a momentous union between networks, right-holders and sports fans. 

(The author is the business head of ESP Properties. The views expressed are entirely his own and does not subscribe to them)


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