It is Sachin Tendulkar Vs MS Dhoni! Apparently, the God vs the King! The ones who supplemented and complemented each other on the Ovals the world over are up against each other in a corporate battle for turf between the two top most conglomerates of sports network in India.
Star Sports Network and Sony Pictures Sports Network are taking the Indian sporting sphere by storm. Both relying on cricket icons, legends on their own rights.
Mercurial Dhoni is batting for the Star Sports network. The ‘God’ of cricket has taken guard as the face of the just-launched Sony Pictures Sports Network.
Sony Pictures Network announced revamp of their network channels on Tuesday, creating a new entity for sports – Sony Pictures Sports Network. A series of TVC campaigns, rolled out with the launch, is driven by Tendulkar. The most impeccable of them all was the promo in which Tendulkar reiterates the brand tagline – “Go Beyond”.
“Because once we go beyond, we feel like champions!” is the message as the network declares its strategy and plans to bring the world’s best sporting action.
This is how the broadcaster introduced its new identity. Beyond this, there is a promise for a campaign around every network channel.
Sony has announced a bouquet of 11 sports channels to bring all the sporting action from around the world. The noteworthy additions were two new HD channels and one of them, Sony Ten 3 HD will be a dedicated Hindi channel in high-definition.
Star Sports, on other hand, to announce the new addition to their sports cluster and a free-to air sports channel, had roped in Dhoni, who screened in two videos around the same. Both the promos are in the regional languages and cater to the larger Indian audience.
“Kya aapki life se sports action missing hai,” asks former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in the film ‘Star Sports First, Aana Hai First’, highlighting the fact that the sports in India need to reach the indigenous territories. The TVC takes fans through a diverse range of sports that will now be accessible on the Star Sports First, the free-to-air sports channel from the broadcaster.
The second promo around Star Sports First urges the fans to come along with Dhoni to come first. The film titled ‘Star Sports First: Aao First Dhoni ke Sang’ is also in Hindi. “Mujhe yakin hai ki sirf shahar chotey hotey hain, wahan ke log aur unke khwab nahin,” Dhoni asserts while he is seen playing his favourite helicopter shot. It seems to highlight that the broadcaster is ready to take on the dreams of small town’s sporting ambitions by giving the fans an opportunity to watch their favourite sport in their own language.
It is quite apparent that both the broadcasters are trying to leverage the brand power that these two cricketers hold in the cricket-loving nation. Driving the fans to watch other sports and that too in their own language seems to be the agenda for the rivals battling for air space in sports broadcast.
However, Star Sports with early start has seemingly establishes a lead over Sony in terms of regional appeal and reach with the launch of Star Sports Tamil, Star Sports 1 Hindi both in standard and high definition. The upcoming free-to air channel, Star Sports First that would further increase its base in regional areas.
“We will have many more languages in sports. We will be looking at Telugu or Kannada as the next language for sports channel launch within a few months. The idea is to grow the sports by localisation in a big way,” Sanjay Gupta, MD, Star India was quoted as saying by Gaurav Laghate for ET.
The other agenda for Sony on the list seems to be making India a multi-sport watching nation. During the launch, Sony declared a dedicated channel for different sports disciplines. The existing Sony Six and Sony Six HD will telecast cricket and NBA action, Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 1 HD will telecast WWE action and Moto GP; Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 2 HD will telecast football action; Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD will showcase UFC, tennis and Impact wrestling; whereas Sony Ten Golf HD for all golf action.
“The future of sports is multi-sport. Therefore, we want to engage viewers in a multi-sports milieu,” NP Singh, CEO, Sony Pictures on the launch of its revamped sports cluster was quoted as saying.
Somewhat similar approach exists with the Star Sports Network. The broadcaster has divided the sports business into three parts: Star Sports First, a soon-to-be-launched Free-To-Air (FTA) sports channel, targeting people who have never had access to sports; Star Sports 1 and 2, which has popular sports like cricket, kabaddi, football; and Star Sports Select, which brings in all international content – English Premier League, Bundesliga, Wimbledon, French Open and other international cricket from South Africa, England, and Australia.
However, on comparison charts Star again seems to be ahead on the multi-sport metric, as it holds the rights for all the major leagues in India including Pro Kabaddi, Hockey India League, Indian Super League, Tamil Nadu Premier League, the Badminton league and as well as the newly-introduced Ultimate Table Tennis other than the international sports.
But as it stands, numbers around the sports channel have a different story to tell. On the sidelines of the launch event of Sony’s sports cluster, Rajesh Kaul, President, Distribution and Sports shared that in 2017 from January till July, SPN sports cluster had a combined viewership share of 55%, whereas rival Star Sports network had 35%. Remaining 10% was with other sports channels including Neo and DSPORT.
These numbers can be attributed to the power of cricket and unprecedented rise in the IPL viewership. That seems to be the driving force.
The right to broadcast the major domestic league, IPL was held by Sony for ten years. The broadcaster used the only leverage to its maximum and will be ready to go all out again to retain its most precious property.
This is not just about sports in India. This is a war between the two giants. And this war will reach its zenith by the bid date for the IPL media rights.
The BCCI has already issued the timeline for Invitation to Tender (ITT) for IPL media rights for the next five years. IPL’s media rights for a five-year period, from the next season in 2018 to 2022, are up for grabs.
Star Sports is keen on adding this gem to its crown of not so illustrious, yet precious, leagues. “We are interested in IPL, but we will be very sensible about what price we bid. As we have presence in both TV and digital, we will bid for both. We haven’t taken a call on whether we will bid for global rights yet,” Gupta said to ET.
It is clearly evident that whoever wins the rights for IPL will have its nose ahead than the other. And this is how the sport networks will try to market their position in the Indian sporting milieu.