FIFA World Cup 2018: Unprecedented TV ratings to spark fight for media rights

FIFA World Cup 2018, FIFA Media Rights, Sony Pictures, SonyLIV, fifa world cup viewership

The unprecedented viewership ratings for the FIFA World Cup 2018 have given Sony Pictures India Network a lot to cheer about. It has become a World Cup of many firsts for Indian television. The 50 million audience for the final between France and Croatia and a total cumulative reach of 250 million for the entire tournament on Sony Sports cluster and the group’s OTT platform SonyLIV are the numbers unheard of for football in India.

It is rare for a non-cricket sport to attract this kind of a traction on Indian television. The commercial goals Sony has set for the FIFA World Cup 2018 were claimed to have been achieved well before the knockout stage line-up was decided in Russia. The audience has exceeded the past records and expectations.

“We are extremely excited by the success of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia with the viewership meeting all our expectations. This definitely reflects the passion the sport is seeing in India and Sony Pictures Networks India is proud to be associated with this tournament and to have provided viewers unparalleled viewing experiences through unique and innovative ideas and initiatives,” an elated Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head Sports, Sony Pictures Networks India, had said after the BARC ratings for the FIFA World Cup final were released on Thursday, July 26.

As the euphoria around this grand sporting settles down, the exclusive FIFA World Cup broadcaster in India for the past two editions will be faced with the cost this unprecedented success is set to invoke. France’s win over Croatia in the final has not just brought curtains on the FIFA World Cup 2018, with this Sony Pictures Network has also completed their FIFA media rights cycle for the Indian territory. Up comes an intense battle for the media rights of the property that has seen multiple growth in the business and consumption volume.

The BARC data over the past few weeks will place the FIFA media rights among the hottest sports properties in India. “FIFA will be top on the agenda of both the leading broadcasters in India now. You have seen the intense battles for the BCCI and IPL rights. FIFA will be no less now. This, of course, is not a several thousand crore rupee property for us or the rivals. But the value we have seen from the finals in Russia are good enough for a pitched battle for the FIFA rights,” a senior content buyer in one of the leading sports broadcast networks told on condition of anonymity. “None of us (the broadcasters) will sit back and let the other one go with it. That is not going to happen.”

Sony Pictures Network had acquired the FIFA media rights, covering the Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018 World Cup editions, for ₹ 100 crores. The FIFA World Cup in Brazil was valued at ₹40 crore, and ₹ 60 crores were attributed to the finals in Russia. The next edition in Qatar is going to invoke a big premium. Not just for the commercial performance of the Russia 2018, but also for the fact that the match timings in Qatar will be more suitable for the Indian television audience than the games.

“With the kind of results we have seen for the Russia World Cup, football media rights in India are going to see an unprecedented rise. The market size and returns for football content have gone up significantly in comparison to the last edition. There is a consistent growth in football fan base in India. A State like Uttar Pradesh has contributed considerable eyeballs to the World Cup. Match timings will also make Qatar more lucrative than Russia for the Indian football fan. These factors will result in a must-win sort of a competition for the next cycle of FIFA media rights in India. Sony has won the last pitch for ₹ 100 crores. This time there will be a minimum of 60% rise in the value,” says media rights veteran and Sporty Solutionz CEO Ashish Chadha.

The growth for football content consumption has been pan-India. With women accounting for 47% of the total World Cup 2018 TV audience on Sony and 66% off the overall reach coming from regional markets, the Bazar of Football is also set to expand from its traditional market in India.