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Will the Audio-video Sports Platforms Wipe Out TV Viewership? Digital is taking over the sports consumption in India and might clear the broadcast business soon

By Aastha Singal

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Entrepreneur India

Be it the Indian Premier League or World Cup, waiting to watch the sports broadcast on television has become passé as audio-video digital platforms take over TV viewership. The explosion of India's digital scope has opened hundreds and thousands of opportunities for emerging organizations to challenge the traditional mediums of entertainment.

Sports being the most loved means of recreation for the young population has not been immune to the penetration of data. While broadcast still enjoys a spectacular hold over the sports enthusiasts, the convenience that digital brings along has become a pain point for such platforms, adversely affecting their business.

One thing is clear though, digital holds the power to completely wipe out the traditional mediums of sports entertainment. Currently ruling the charts is India's homegrown video streaming platform owned by Star India, Hotstar which has the official rights to telecast all cricket and football matches live through its video-on-demand service.

Decoding India's Digital Sports Landscape

As of April 2019, Hotstar had 300 million users with over 40 per cent market share of active users. Over 30 OTT players are now battling for sports rights in India but the platform has it's first closed till 2022. "Sports entertainment on digital has grown significantly in the past few years," agrees Varun Narang, the Chief Product Officer of Hotstar.

"Content consumption on digital screens has become ubiquitous now thanks to inexpensive smartphones, cheaper data, and wider 4G networks," he shares. Narang stresses that the Cable/DTH TV continues to constitute a meaningful share of sports entertainment but the field is now driven by the live viewing behaviour which offers opportunities to constantly improve.

The convenience mobile screens have brought has not only contributed to the digital sports consumption but also helped in breaking the monopoly cricket has been enjoying in the country for years. Treated as another religion, cricket continues to be the leading sport in India. Other sports, though, have also gathered sizeable interest over the past few years.

Establishment of new leagues in football, hockey and less established sports such as kabaddi are changing the face of Indian sports. Players are getting a global stage to showcase their talent and viewers are getting the opportunity to get more involved in their favourite sports. This rise in popularity of sports has provided ample business opportunities for corporates.

The Future is on Mobile Screen

The nation has witnessed a massive growth of sports startups as former sports veteran takes a plunge into entrepreneurship by setting up new businesses ranging from e-tailing sports apparel, goods to providing sports analytics and sports content. One such emerging name would be SportsFlashes, a multi-language sports content platform.

Found by a seasoned entrepreneur Raman Raheja, SportsFlashes is touted as the only 24x7 Sports Radio Channel of India. While engaging fans through text, audio, video and other emerging form factors, the platform has been focusing on specifically to amplify its audio presence. Since its inception in 2016, SportsFlashes has reached out of 45 million people.

Having attained global rights to audio broadcast sporting tournaments like English Premier League, the ongoing Indian Premier League and the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup for the next five years, the platform has high hopes from the shift in sports viewers' consumption patterns because as Raheja feels, "the future is on the mobile screen."

Digital consumption of content is changing the pattern of how various sports are watched in the country. Online viewers are no longer a small, niche category. While most do not watch entire matches online, the average time spent per user is in the range of 30—35 minutes (on Hotstar), as stated by an 2017 EY report on Sports in India.

Breaking the Monopoly of Cricket

Digital consumption has also been instrumental in driving fan engagement in new age sports properties that are connecting with their audiences online. The sports, considered "non-prime" are especially benefitting from the wide acceptance of online platforms. The majority of users access matches on mobile handsets because of the convenience to watch anytime and anywhere.

For the longest time, cricket has been treated as a religion in India but other sports are now taking over some market share. Unlike 10 years ago, the Indian audience is willing to consume non-cricket and vernacular has played a significant role in bringing the change. Rural India is ready to consume content on digital but only if packaged in the language they understand.

Another big reason for the acceptance of non-cricket sports could be a live broadcast. Who'd want to watch a cricket or football match in highlights? Not many but that's not the case with other sports. "Even if it is not live to stream, you can hear stories and news, short videos without being in front of the TV because these are non-prime time sports," shares Raheja.

For Hotstar, keeping a steadfast focus on the consumer to deliver a superior viewing experience has been the guiding principle. The platform broadcasts a vast library of on-demand content across Cricket, Football, Formula 1, Tennis, Hockey, Kabbadi etc, live and otherwise, reinforcing that the sports consumption in India is on the verge of complete transformation and might overtake the broadcast business soon.

Aastha Singal

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Features Writer

A business journalist looking to find happiness in the world of startups, investments, MSMEs and more. Officially started her career as a news reporter for News World India, Aastha had short stints with NDTV and NewsX. A true optimist seeking to make a difference, she is a comic junkie who'd rather watch a typical Bollywood masala than a Hollywood blockbuster. 

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