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Archive re-runs help sports channels gain 21% viewership

Star India and Sony Pictures Networks have revived several classics.

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MUMBAI: Be it domestic or international, almost all sporting events have either been scrapped or postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of events has forced sports broadcasters to run dry with no live sporting tournaments and resort to showing archived re-runs.

Star India group and Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) own a majority of sporting rights in India. Star India has all the International Cricket Council World Cup tournaments rights along with all team India matches played in India, and of course, Indian Premier League rights, too. SPN has a range of international sports properties such as wrestling, NBA, badminton, tennis and some marquee events such as Olympics 2020 and Euro Cup 2020.

Cricket being the most-watched sports in the country, Star Sports, this week, lined-up all the historical India vs Pakistan world cup matches from 1992 to the recent 2019 on its channels. With the branding of ‘Mauka Mania’, it says: “A week-long opportunity to relive several cricketing battles between India and Pakistan including nail-biting matches from the World Cups and the Asia Cup.”

Not just that, the sports broadcaster has also indulged in producing a non-live talk show content, Cricket Connected, wherein cricket veterans will be connected digitally and speak about the gentlemen’s game. Each episode will have segments called ‘#AskStar’ & ‘Cricket Recreated’ that encourage fans to engage and interact with the cricketing legends through social media platforms.

Sports channels thrive on live content from different sporting events. And, this unprecedented COVID19 situation has torpedoed the plans of sports channels. Citing the example of mythological show Ramayan on DD National, Madison Media chief executive officer Vanita Keswani says: “Re-run is a good move that the sports broadcasters are doing as people need entertainment. Sentiments are positive for re-runs in sports as well. It will certainly help sports broadcasters to gain the attention of brands and advertisers. Categories which are already spending in the current environment will, of course, try to take advantage of the re-runs of sporting events televised by the sports broadcasters.”

SPN will show ‘great centuries’ in the history of cricket for two weeks, starting 6 April.

SPN is the official broadcaster for important international non-cricket sporting tournaments, too. For World Wrestling Entertainment, the most-watched sport in India after cricket, the broadcaster has announced the launch of a new primetime programming slot, ‘WWE Blockbusters @ 8 pm’, which will be aired every day of the week.

“WWE Blockbusters will celebrate some of the most iconic matches in WWE history, honouring WWE Legends and showcasing the current WWE Superstars representing flagship brands – RAW, SmackDown and NXT,” Sony Pictures Network said in its official statement.

The sports genre has surged by 21 per cent in week 13 over the previous week on the back of telecasts of classic India cricket matches and World Wrestling Entertainment, as per a joint report released by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India and Nielsen India.

Despite all their efforts, Dentsu Aegis Network India chief executive officer Anand Bhadkamkar feels that given the current COVID-19 situation, brands do not want to be on advertising platforms for now. “We are likely to see a reduction in the core advertising spends and it is expected that these spends will be slowed down substantially. Re-runs will definitely cheer up sports enthusiasts and certainly have the viewership go up. But whether that will convert into something concrete is quite doubtful,” he says. 

Joining the race of re-runs, the government-owned free-to-air sports channel DD Sports will broadcast the highlights of India’s cricket matches from the early 2000s from 7 April onwards. At least 20 archived match highlights will be shown for a week on the platform including Tri-series India, Australia, New Zealand 2003, South Africa tour of India 2000, Australia tour of India 2001, West Indies tour of India 2002 and Sri Lanka tour of India (full matches).

“Re-runs will certainly help long-term advertisers and somehow enable them to gain visibility associated with channels,” believes DigitalKites senior vice-president Amit Lall. “Advertisers have not paid for the re-runs but for the live tournaments. Considering the unforeseen situation of live matches not being played, broadcasters will certainly try to convince them, make them happy by at least getting some eyeballs through historical archived sporting events.”

The International Cricket Council’s 2011 India-Pakistan world cup semi-final match saw a growth of 87 per cent and the final between India and Sri Lanka match gained viewership by 52 per cent. The semi-final was broadcasted on Monday – 30 March, whereas the final on Thursday – 2 April. These matches were televised on Star India’s sports channels at a time when there was no live sport happening.

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