PodcastsSports Business Updates

SBU Ep14: Sony Pictures Sports Network goes regional and IPL restart in UAE

The nexus between Sports and Business.

In this week’s episode, I will discuss how Sony Pictures Sports Network is expanding their sports broadcast offering in regional languages to reach out to wider sports viewing audiences in India, I will also update you on the IPL restart in UAE and the potential issues BCCI faces in executing the remaining tournament, I will also cover stories around India’s Sports app FanCode’s successful raising of a fresh round of funding and I will wrap up this week’s episode with a quick update about Indian gamers seeking favourable policies from the Indian government to compete for global recognition.

There is a lot to cover this week, so, let’s get into the details…

Euro 2020 to be broadcasted in 6 languages in India 

Our first update is about Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) is going regional with their EURO 2020 and Copa America broadcast.

In a recently issued press release by SPSN, it was confirmed that they will telecast UEFA EURO 2020 in six languages to reach out to a wider audience across India: English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

In their commitment to providing a superior viewing experience, SPSN announced a range of programming initiatives for the tournaments to bring the global marquee events closer to viewers in India.

This means football fans will be watching their favourite studio show “Football Extraaa” will be making a come back with fan favourites Manas Singh and Arpit Sharma and will showcase International former footballers like Louis Saha, Luis Garcia, Don Hutchison, David James, Terry Phelan, Mark Seagraves, Ashley Westwood and Jofre Mateu along with some of the best Indian talent to have graced the football pitch like Indian legend, Bhaichung Bhutia and current superstars such as Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Sandesh Jhingan and Robin Singh.

SPSN will also have Andy Mitten, Adriano Del Monte and Eisha Megan Acton, reporting live from the ground across match venues and taking the viewers closer to the action.

The second blockbuster football event on SPSN – Copa América will be telecast live in five languages: English, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam on SONY TEN 1, SONY TEN 2, SONY SIX and SONY TEN 4 channels starting June 14, 2021, and fans can also live stream it on SonyLIV.

WWE goes regional in India with Sony Ten 4 

Our second update is an extension of the first story featuring SPSN and this time they add WWE to their new regional language sports offering.

SPSN is working hard to add properties to their newly launched regional sports channel Sony TEN 4 and after announcing two big global football to the roster of sports on Sony TEN 4, they have also confirmed that WWE  will be making its Tamil & Telugu debut and they have gone one step ahead and signed popular Telugu actor Rana Daggubati to promote WWE on their channel.

The channel launch is in line with SPSN’s commitment to foster a multi-sports culture in the country while providing fans with an unparalleled viewing experience of their favourite sports. 

Indian Premier League to restart in the UAE

Our third update is about the return of this year’s IPL in the UAE.

The 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2021) which was postponed on May 4 after a couple of bio-bubble breaches has been moved to the UAE, confirmed BCCI Vice President Rajeev Shukla.

England, UAE, and Australia emerged as the possible venues but eventually, UAE was finalised to resume the league.

However, UAE was an obvious choice since it is a tested venue having staged the league in the last season entirely. All the franchises have also welcomed the decision to host the season in the UAE.

It is believed that the remaining 31 matches of IPL 2021 will be split into  10 double headers, 7 single headers, and 4 playoffs, which will be fit into the 21-day window the BCCI hopes to create before the ICC T20 World Cup.

However, there are hurdles that the BCCI will have to overcome with several cricketers from England, Australia, NZ and a few other nations that won’t be available for the restart. There is also a potential clash with the Caribbean Premier League but it has been reported that BCCI has requested Cricket West Indies to bring forward their tournament by 10 days to ensure Caribbean players are available for the restart.

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FanCode raises $50M

This week’s fourth update is a funding alert.

India’s leading digital sports platform FanCode announced that it has raised $50 million from parent Dream Sports’ investment arm, Dream Sports Investments (DSI).

Set up in 2020, DSI makes investments in sports tech businesses. The investment arm is being headed by Dev Bajaj who joined Dream Sports as chief corporate development officer after quitting VC firm Kalaari Capital.

With this $50 million funding round, FanCode plans to accelerate the growth and scale of its digital sports services and expand its team to include engineering and product development talent across various roles as well as leadership positions. FanCode has established three D2C (direct-to-consumer) revenue lines between FC Live (live sports content), FC Shop (official sports fan merchandise) and FC Stats (sports analytics and insights).

One of the KPI’s set by FanCode on the back of this funding is to hit the 100 million user base milestone.

Indian gamers seek favourable policies to compete globally

Our fifth and final update this week is from the Indian eSports/Gaming sector.

eSports will likely be a medal sport in Asian Games 2022 in China and India has an ideal alternative to make a splash at this mega sporting occasion. However, the massive obstacle between the gamers and international competitive occasions is the shortage of thrust from the federal government. Now avid gamers, gaming corporations and varied stakeholders hope this changes quickly with a progressive regulatory structure to support the Indian athletes and companies.

The biggest hurdle to eSports competitive growth is that the Indian sports and youth affairs ministry does not consider eSports/gaming and the leaders in the Indian eSports sector are calling the government to recognise digital sports and create state and country chapter to better manage the governance of eSports in India.

eSports and gaming ecosystem has grown in India considerably with foreign investments coming through for game development and brands have shown support in developing competitions etc leading to a surge in the overall growth.

Another great sign that Indian sports associations adapting eSports is of AIFF and their nationwide search for the best EA Sports – FIFA players with the winner representing India at the World Cup. However, it’s easier for a sport like Football but the challenge remains with recognition of other competitive tiles that aren’t sports per se.

I sincerely hope this doesn’t become another debacle like the F1 race in India with the government considering F1 racing as entertainment leading to a stalemate in the easing of taxes leading to F1 racing in India dying a premature death. Having said that I reckon eSports involves mass participation and the fact that participation happens virtually could help in the cause.

I hope the government supports the cause considering India has higher chances of winning medals at the international level than traditional sports.

This brings us to the end of this week’s episode of Sports Business Updates. 

I just wanted to let you all know that I have joined Clubhouse last week and I have set up a club called Sportsnexus where I will be creating conversations around the business of sports, internet culture and will be conducting quizzes and inviting sports business professionals to discuss topics around Indian and International sports marketing and more. So, do follow me on Clubhouse @nileshd14 or search for Sportsnexus and join the conversations.

Don’t forget to listen to all the episodes of the Sports Business Updates podcast on Spotify, Anchor, Google and Apple podcasts and pocket casts.

And have a great week ahead and see you all on the next episode of Sports Business updates.

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Nilesh Deshmukh
I am passionate about sports and passionate about marketing. As a sports marketer, I have built significant expertise in successfully delivering medium to long term digital marketing strategy for global sports entities and brands like Arsenal FC, Manchester United FC, Chelsea FC, Major League Baseball, Formula E, and AELTC, etc to engage with their fans in India. I am currently based in London and lead India business at Engage Digital Partners.