Sony Six: gunning for pole position

MUMBAI: If you saw the 2013 film Rush about the fierce rivalry between 70s Formula One racing drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, Sony Six seems to be getting into the fast lane too now along with arch rival Star Sports.

Not only does the channel have a diverse sports bouquet on offer, it boasts some of the biggest international sporting properties including The Pepsi Indian Premiere League (IPL), UEFA EURO 2016, Qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2016, European Qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, Total Non-Stop Action (TNA), The Australian Open Tennis Championship, The NBA, The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as well as The Indian Open Super Series and The India Open Grand Prix Gold in badminton.

Yes, arch rival Star Sports has some hot cricket properties featuring India's official team and other niche Indian sports tournaments, but the idea at Sony Six is to stand out from the competition and break the clutter by bringing in a wide array of sports which have their own loyal fan base.

Says Sony Six business head Prasana Krishnan: “We believe in picking up sports that have a lot of latent potential - like basketball - as we really believe that in terms of infrastructure, it’s easily available all over the country and will slowly gain popularity.”

As for content like UFC and TNA, he reasons that traditionally, the country has always had an active fight sports culture, with some of the best international performances emanating from this sphere.

Sony Six has a full programming slate with a good mix of sports and is also making a statement in terms of content acquisition with back-to-back announcements of global sporting properties.

Speaking of the rights’ acquisition of the FIFA World Cup 2014 and 2018, Krishnan expounds: “If we look at the trend in ratings, every time there is a big event like a EURO or FIFA, we see tremendous growth in interest for football in the country. So, keeping that aspect in mind, football is really an area that has not been explored to its full potential thus far.”

Sony Six is looking to position itself as the home for international football for the next five years. “So be it whichever country that is playing like France, Germany, Argentina or Spain. Every time any of these countries play, the viewers get an opportunity to see their favorite stars and it helps build the brand and audience base further,” adds Krishnan.

Besides, the channel has big plans for a 360 degree marketing campaign to promote FIFA comprising outdoor, print, digital, radio and television. “Six will be the main platform for the on-air promotion and we will also use the whole Sony network to spread the awareness. It’s too early to elaborate on the product as it is still six months away, but we will surely make it viral,” explains Krishnan.

Kicking off Sony Six’s events’ calendar is the channel’s very first live international sporting event – India’s tour of New Zealand starting this Sunday, with five ODIs and two test matches.

“Our portfolio for the current year is quite extensive, starting off with India’s tour of New Zealand, followed by FIFA, then European Central Qualifiers and the Australian Open. Thus, if you see in terms of competition, we certainly consider ourselves among the top sports broadcasters in the country. And all this in just under a year,” says Krishnan.

At just 10 per cent, consumption of other sports vis-?-vis cricket is very marginal, leaving a wide space for other sports to build on their following.

“The Indian market is huge and the way it’s structured is enormous; there is certainly potential in this country for various sports beyond cricket, and we as a channel would like to cash in on this opportunity,” stresses Krishnan.

Are there any plans to infiltrate Hindi speaking markets (HSMs)? “Well, we certainly have a lot of plans in the pipeline as we want to penetrate into that market as well and I know it has been a recent trend for running simulcast of events with Hindi and English commentary. But if you just go back in time, Sony has already tried and tested this proposition during last year’s IPL. So if things work well, I really don’t see any problem in doing so. We have taken the rights for multiple languages’ broadcast as well,” concludes Krishnan.

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