SPN's digital play for the FIFA World Cup

SPN's digital play for the FIFA World Cup

Uday Sodhi

Mumbai: In a bid to offer consumers a world-class sporting experience, Sony Pictures Network India (SPN) has pulled out all stops for their coverage of the FIFA World Cup. After launching the 'meri doosri country' promotional campaign, the company has now planned a major digital push for the showpiece event.

The strategy for the digital telecast on SonyLIV, SPN’s OTT platform, has been crafted around three key elements – language, data and consumer participation.

“The football is an involved fan. We have designed our coverage keeping in mind dedicated football fans. So, stats and data are an important part of our offering.” SPN, EVP and head of digital business, Uday Sodhi tells Indiantelevision.com.

The ‘Match Centre’ will offer viewers live scores, commentary, match information and stats alongside the live match telecast. This feature is aimed at engaging dedicated football fans. Four language options - English, Hindi, Bengali and Malayalam - will be available on SonyLIV, something that's never been done before.

SPN's consumer participation will rely on a second screen experience. With guests in the studio, the plan is to marry  digital offerings with the TV coverage. This will enable fans to comment on the match and the experts' opinions, make predictions and participate in polls and contests during and before the match.

Ahead of the World Cup, SonyLIV launched a ‘Super Sports’ pack for Rs 199 for 6 months. Paid subscribers will have access to live matches behind a pay-wall, while free subscribers' feed will be ad-supported with a five-minute delay.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study deduced that India's OTT video market will be among the world's top ten by 2022. Star India's OTT platform, Hotstar, breached the 10 million impressions mark during the Indian Premier League final. Given the high consumption of digital video and the formidable FIFA brand, all eyes will be on the numbers SonyLIV delivers.

Sodhi expects between 4 to 5 crore consumers to use the platform during the quadrennial extravaganza.

"Unlike 2014, this edition will be telecast at India prime time. In fact, I think it's been eight years since the FIFA World Cup was telecast at timings that are convenient for Indian viewers," he says.

Sodhi has been instrumental in building the SonyLIV platform into a credible destination for sports fans. The experience of successfully working on big-ticket FIFA and UEFA events has helped prep the SPN team for the 2018 World Cup.

Given the proliferation of digital video and scale of the event, does he have any concerns about robustness of the platform?

"Football has steady viewership through the match unlike cricket, which peaks at crucial moments. We are not worried about the scale. We did big numbers during the India-South Africa cricket series. There is no problem on that front," Sodhi says confidently.

SonlyLIV's digital coverage will also be available on its partner platforms like Apple TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire among others.

In terms of size, scope and stage, the FIFA World Cup is the apex of global sporting competition. The 2018 edition could be seen as a test case for the potential of the OTT market in India. How the digital strategy of SPN plays out eventually and the response from the consumers will offer crucial insights and lessons to all the stakeholders going forward.