In the last two-three years, SPSN has invested in a lot of non-cricket properties. How has been the response?
Non cricket properties are growing in viewership across the country and our audience has started consuming non-cricket properties and marquee events consistently. Our coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2018 was watched by 177 million viewers making it the most watched FIFA World Cup in Indian TV history. The LIVE coverage of the final match between France and Croatia was watched by 39 million viewers, the highest reach for any FIFA World Cup match on Indian TV (BARC, All India, CS2+, SPN Sports Network). There is keen interest among cricket fans to India to watch a contest between two formidable teams even if India is not playing. Viewership for the Ashes cricket series in 2019 grew by 16% compared to 2017 series. Similarly in 2020, the England vs West Indies and England vs Pakistan series that were telecast on Sony Sports were among the highest rated test match series not featuring India. While the overall sports genre was impacted by Covid due to a large number of events getting cancelled, the impact of Sony Sports was lesser. WWE and UFC continued with their LIVE coverage even during the lockdown. Most of the major LIVE sports that resumed last year experienced higher time spent as audiences were still at home during the lockdown. Viewership for the Big Bash League grew by 60% and Abu Dhabi T10 league grew by 45%, compared to their previous editions. UEFA Champions League matches gained significant traction post resumption, with the final match between Bayern Munich & PSG, achieving the highest ever rating on TV for an UEFA league match The historic Australia vs India cricket series also performed very well for the Sony Sports Network with close to 136 million viewers watching the coverage on TV. This kind of a response encourages us to invest in non-cricket properties as we truly believe in providing multi-sports offerings for our viewers.
How critical and important is it for the channels to have an HD offering especially when it is a Sports channel?
Penetration of HD compatible TV sets has increased significantly in India during the recent years, which has led to a growth in HD channel consumption. HD channels provide the viewer with a superior viewing experience due to higher picture resolution and richer colour. These attributes are especially important for sports fans who want the best possible immersive experience for their preferred sporting event, so that they feel that they are present at the stadium.
India is in partial or full lockdown which is having an impact on ad spends as well. Is it impacting your ad sales for these exceptionally popular tournaments?
While advertising spends have been affected during the lockdown, these are marquee events and the response that we have received from advertisers is better than what we had expected given the current environment.
SPSN recently launched a 15-episode digital series called ''Sony Ten presents The Medal of Glory''. How has been the feedback ?
In a genre where LIVE sporting events drive most of the ratings, ‘the Medal of Glory’ received a relatively good response from sports fans. Close to 5 million viewers watched the series on television, which was hosted by Raman Bhanot. Fans appreciated the content greatly during last year’s lockdown which featured never-heard-before conversations with Olympians talking about how they are faring during the lockdown, their fitness & diet regimes, their journey to victory, representing India at international tournaments and the importance of hitting the ground running once life resumes normalcy.
The Best Businesses Are Built Around Passion. What are your views on this?
We believe that passion is the main fuel and ingredient for building or growing a business. The business of sports is also driven by passion. World champions of the world are known for their passion in the sport they play. We have a great team at Sony Pictures Sports Network that is driven by their passion for sports. This ‘passion for sports and what we do is what motivates us to present and produce great sporting content.