SPN’s Neville Bastawalla on ‘massification’ of niche sports and Australian Open broadcast extension

The promotions will begin three months in advance.

MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Networks India’s (SPN) sports segment is highly focusing on niche segments and so Tennis Australia and SPN have extended their broadcast deal by three years at the official Australian Open 2020 media launch. SPN sports business head-marketing and on-air promotions Neville Bastawalla said ‘massification’ is the only way to grow viewership for niche sports while the segment has huge opportunity.

“There is a challenge and as well as opportunity. These are niche sports and the viewership is low. But the opportunity is certain. If you build the right relevance with these selective niche sports, identify and target them and build localisation, you will reach the tipping point and viewership will explode,” he said.

He elaborated that there will be a 360 degree marketing like last year panning across sports network, social media. Last season’s heavy TV promotion primarily helped the network to grow the viewership of the Australian Open by 39 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018. He is also confident that it will grow further next year. He also added that the broadcaster is exploring the option of regional feeds for finales. He also added that they will integrate marketing plans for the league on SonyLIV together with TV as all screens are converging now.

“We are going to synergise more this year with the Australian Open marketing team or how can we drive synergies to grow in India. We are going to work three months in advance,” he noted.

Although cricket has a legacy, broadcasters are now betting on new sports too. Although the marketing spend on cricket still remains the highest, Bastawalla says that the focus on the Australian Open is similar to a non-Indian team cricket or the UEFA Champions League or WWE.

He mentioned that the viewership of UEFA Champions league grew by 50 per cent in 2019 year over year. On the other hand, Serie A league has the highest reach in the country among football leagues. Although India is primarily a cricket-viewing country, there is a huge potential of other sports to grow by building relevance and localisation with the global entertainers of the world.

Post the new tariff order, SPN has also come out with advertisements urging customers to pick its channels. “It’s more about telling consumers why they should subscribe to our channels also. Give them a reason to buy us. We constantly keep talking to our consumers with different propositions about why they should subscribe to SPN sports channels. This has to be a consistent effort - talking about subscription from a marketing perspective. We are very happy with the response we got so far with our campaigns,” he commented.

Starting January, SPN will also commence promotions for another flagship event – the Olympics. This is almost six to seven months in advance of the games.

However, despite the focus on niche genres, the channel has got over 200 days of cricket coming up, as they have rights to New Zealand tour of Australia, Australia tour of South Africa, England tour of South Africa, Big Bash League and T10 League.

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