Indian broadcaster's comments on sports rights

As the cost of acquisition of cricket rights in India become prohibitive, more and more broadcasters and sponsors are looking at reviving viewer interest in other sports. RC Venkateish, managing director, ESPN Software India, the company which oversees distribution, sales and marketing for ESPN and STAR Sports for the South Asia region, talks to Pallavi Sah of the Financial Express about the prospects of non-cricket programming on Indian television:

Do you think broadcasters and sponsors that invest in sports other than cricket get fair returns?

I think the returns are far higher. Niche brands can target a geographic, psychographic or demographic profile through F1, EPL, PHL etc. If you are looking at mass numbers, cricket is the game for you. But the costs have become prohibitive, and it’s only the super big boys who can get on to cricket now.

While cricket is expensive, it doesn’t allow one to segment the audience. For instance, it makes no sense for a brand like Rolex to sponsor cricket. Almost 95% of the audience are not its target group. But if it sponsored Masters Golf it could be assured that it is reaching at least 70% of its target audience.

Again, with PHL, geographic segmentation is possible. Sponsor Western Union, which is strong in Punjab, is sponsoring the two teams from that state—Sher-e-Jalandhar and Chandigarh Dynamos. ING Vysya has used the opportunity to support its home team, Bangalore Lions.

TAM predicts that 2006 will be the year of niche media. How do you assess the potential of exposure (maximum eyeballs) vis-a-vis engagement (fewer eyeballs, more involvement) media?

Sports is not niche by any stretch of imagination. It is the second largest driver of growth in revenues and viewership after general entertainment channels. The entry costs for sports channels are high because of high rights acquisition costs. In such a scenario, leaders will continue to consolidate their positions. The new ones will continue to come and go.