UK sports media firm Perform Content gears up for its India innings

MUMBAI: Augustine Tan is a man who is constantly on the move. That’s because his job demands it.  Last year, the Singaporean, who is the senior vice president ,Asia of sports rights and media firm,  Perform Content, clocked close to 43 flights all over the world.  This included trips to Europe, the US, and other Asian countries. These days his visits to Mumbai and Delhi are increasing in frequency as the company is looking at making further inroads into the Indian market.

Part of the US-based Access group owned by Soviet origin promoter Leonid Blavatnik, the Perform Group has close to 2,100 employees across the world and has partnered with the likes of  the International Basketball Federation (FIBA),  the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)  and the American National Football League (NFL) to build these sports properties across under-penetrated markets in Asia, West Asia and Africa.

“We are not just a selling agency. We work very closely with the sports associations and federations and local partners in various countries to take the sports around the properties up by many a notch,” says Tan.  

In 2016, the Perform Group allied with FIBA to create a joint venture FIBA Media and also promised to put in an investment of Euros 500 million. For the period of four FIBA Basketball World Cup cycles (2017-2033), Perform will be FIBA's worldwide partner for the distribution and sale of all media-related rights, with respect to FIBA national men’s and women’s team competitions. 

The partnership will cover more than 5,000 live games, including qualifiers and major championships - such as the FIBA Basketball World Cup and FIBA EuroBasket - over the term of the agreement, with more than 1,500 live games in the first cycle (2017-2021).

Now, Tan and his India country head Subhayu Roy are looking at roping in an Indian partner to pick up the telecast rights as well as do the production.

“We have enhanced the event production across all the continents in order to improve the fans’ ability to follow their national team all year around, which was not the case earlier as matches had long gaps,” says Tan. “The games are going to be played in India for the very first time.”

Adds Roy: “We want to license the rights to somebody who can put their skin in the game . We have done deals in most of the countries. India is only the last one, before the kickoff happens on 8 August 2017 in Lebanon. “

Perform is working similarly with its other two major properties – the WTA and the NFL. For the WTA it wants to tie in a broadcaster for the 47 tournaments and about 800 matches that the tennis outfit holds every year.  “In some countries you can run a tennis channel just on the volume of matches you have,” says Tan. “But in others, broadcasters choose to just go with the quarter, semi and final matches.”

According to him, India is one of the key markets for both the WTA and Perform. “You have a Sania Mirza who has been doing well,” he says. “And many a time Indian fans don’t get to watch her progress. Also, a new bunch of players that is emerging are challenging the greats like Sharapova and Williams. This should help rejuvenate interest in the sport as they are all fighting for the crown.”

He points out that a new WTA event is scheduled for Chennai in November this year.

As far as the NFL is concerned, Tan has realistic expectations for it in India. “Anyone who has watched the NFL in the US will definitely tune in. It’s fast and its entertaining. It’s part of the pop culture, whether its movies or Friday night American football.  NFL globally is a respected branded name. But we are very realistic in sense of our expectations. We don’t expect our portfolio to get 50 per cent of the cricket audience. We only want to be part of the ecosystem in India. “

Tan acknowledges that the Indian market has indeed become more challenging since the acquisition of Ten Sports by Sony Pictures Networks India. “For rights owners, the number of broadcasters available has dwindled and it’s getting a little harder.”

However, where the Perform group is doing well in India is with its Opta and  Omnisport product range.  Opta, which offers high definition live data around game-play during matches, has clients in HT Media, Sportstar Live, SportsKeeda,  sports federations, fantasy leagues and teams, among others. 

“A team of around 400 analysts tracks games around soccer, cricket, American football, rugby, basketball, baseball out of our London office,” reveals Tan. "The kind of data collection we are talking about is not just about scores. In sports like football, in one 90-minute match there are about 2,600 events with the ball.  Every touch, every pass is being recorded with an X and Y coordinates. In cricket,  for every delivery there 35 data points. This is fed to digital publishers in terms of score cards and visualization as well as to broadcasters in the form of on screen graphics, production room, commentators, which is the live component.”

Omnisport, on the other hand, provides breaking global sports video and editorial content, while football site has been working around creating content with brands. Customers include broadcasters like ESPN, and digital outlets.

Tan reveals there are other products in the portfolio like OTT and VOD sports service DaZn (pronounced the zone) which is now live in Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Canada. “We are looking for the next country to enter,” he says.

Roy’s next task is to move to Mumbai (he currently operates out of Delhi), set up office and build a team. “We are in India for the long term. We see a lot of promise and are keen to invest in the country,” he says. “And of course, put up a great performance for the group.”

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