For my first update, I look back at 2022 and the growth of sports on Indian OTT platforms. 2022 was a very exciting year for the OTT sector in India as platforms gained millions of subscribers. Key players like Disney-Hotstar, Jio, Sony LIV, Amazon Prime, and Zee amongst others have created hundreds of hours of content which has given India’s main film industry Bollywood a run for their money and in 2023 the fight for dominance will shift to sports.
Sony Pictures Networks India, now called Culver Max Entertainment Private Ltd, was on an overdrive to beef up its sports content for TV channels and its digital service SonyLIV. In August it signed a three-year deal for US Open to televise and stream tennis across the Indian subcontinent. They also extended their partnership with England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for exclusive television and digital rights for six years up until 2028. For cricket’s Lanka Premier League, its digital rights are limited for streaming in India and Sri Lanka.
Sony Pictures Networks India also has WWE as their prime property. India is WWE’s top 3 market in terms of views and engagement and holding on to WWE and diversifying the offerings in regional languages will play a major role in retaining subscribers.
Disney Star is another OTT to watch out for. Their aggressive bid four months ago bagged them the TV and digital rights for all International Cricket Council (ICC) events from 2024 to 2027 at an estimated $3 billion.
But the biggest mover in the sports OTT sector in India in 2022 has to be Reliance Industry. Their highlight is outbidding Disney Star for the IPL digital media rights for ₹20,500 crores. Also, for the first time, the digital rights for IPL were marginally higher than traditional TV rights, which I reckon is the beginning of a shift in sports media rights.
Reliance Industries has been very actively acquiring digital media rights for global sports like La Liga, NBA, Serie A, ATP/WTA, and most recently Viacom18 – a Reliance-backed channel used Reliance’s JioCinema app to showcase Fifa World Cup being held in Qatar and also signed a seven-year partnership with Cricket South Africa for exclusive digital and TV rights for all international cricket from 2024 to 2031.
According to media experts in India, there are 400 million mobile phone users in India and with reasonably cheaper data the demand for sports content viewership is expected to grow sports can also help in converting the free AVoD (advertising-led video-on-demand) users to SVoD (Subscription-led video-on-demand) users. So, potentially there are 400 million AVoD subscribers but according to Ormax, there are only 49 million SVoD audiences in India. Considering digital is the future of broadcasting, there is a lot of scope for converting AVoD to SVoD customers in India but there will be challenges like Live sports on TV and costs for the subscription that needs to be mitigated in order to onboard subscribers in 2023.
Update number two about eSports in India getting a massive boost from the government. So, 2022 has ended with a bang for the eSports sector in India as the government of India has recognised eSports as a part of multi-sports events.
So, what does that mean?
It basically means that eSports will no longer be piled onto the “Gaming” umbrella term and will become a part of the Department of Sports under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports just like other sports in India.
The Indian Esports Industry has been fighting for Esports not to be clubbed under the umbrella term “Gaming”. The Industry has maintained that Esports (Electronic sports) is a competitive sport where esports athletes use their physical and mental abilities to compete in certain genres of video games in a virtual, electronic environment.
The change has come at a good time because of the growth of gaming in India. According to a Dentsu report the number of Indian gamers is expanding at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% and is expected to jump to 700 million in FY25 compared with 507 million in 2021.
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Update number three is about two key sponsors of the BCCI finding themselves in commitment difficulties.
There are reports doing the rounds in India that Byjus will exit their sponsorship deal with the BCCI in March and the BCCI has accepted their request for the same.
This news comes straight after Byjus had extended its sponsorship deal with the BCCI until 2023-end for $55 million. Its original deal term with the BCCI expired in March 2022. As per the news between the BCCI and Byju, the edtech major is roughly paying 10% more than what Oppo was paying on a per-match basis.
Byjus has seen a slowdown after two years of hypergrowth and there are other troubles the edtech company is facing which are affecting their business to the extent that they are cutting out all additional expenditures and their sports sponsorships are about to experience the aftereffects and the BCCI sponsorship exit is the starting point. Besides Byjus, it is also reported that MPL, BCCI’s kit sponsor is looking to exit from their deal too.
The past few years have been difficult for the BCCI on the commercial/sponsorship front with PayTM exiting their sponsorship deal (taken over promptly by Mastercard), Byju’s looking at an exit along with MPL to follow. Is this a sign of a start-up growth slump in India? And will the BCCI’s apex committee do vigorous due diligence when they announce their next sponsor? In my opinion, staying away from volatile sectors like tech, gaming and blockchain will be a wise move.
And in other news,
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