Sports has regained its pre-pandemic viewership numbers and internet platforms can’t keep calm. Having realized the potential of the genre, every platform wants to include sports in their content portfolio to attract engaged viewers and provide advertisers with a valuable opportunity. This has led to the active acquisition of sports rights, licenses and partnerships to maximize the potential of the high-performing genre.
And the gamble is just beginning to get bigger than ever before.
Thanks to cash rich IPs like the Indian Premier League (IPL), the battle for dominance in the digital sports streaming space has expanded beyond just Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLIV. With the immense popularity and revenue potential of IPL, new players have entered the market to compete for a share of the lucrative sports genre.
While the streaming rights for IPL went to Reliance backed Viacom18 for a whooping Rs 20,500 crore, it is said internet giants like Amazon, Meta and others also tried for the spot.
After FIFA, Viacom18 is now focused on introducing more disruptions with the IPL. Their next move? Free streaming.
This not only increases engagement but promotes easy access as well. However, simply streaming the event live isn’t enough to retain viewership. Enter innovation.
To make the viewership experience interesting, JioCinema has made multiple new additions to its app by means of which, the audience can enjoy a personalized viewing experience. Firstly, all live streams of matches will be available to view in 4k and in multiple languages.
Secondly, one can choose their desired angle to watch the match from. Be it, the spider cam or the stump cam. Moreover, there will be real time statistics available for each match as well. These statistics will be constantly updated as a game progresses. Furthermore, there will also be a range of questions asked throughout the match where one stands a chance to win prizes.
In the innovation segment, JioCinema has also launched a VR experience. Where a person can watch a match live in 360 degrees. They have also introduced a dongle, by means of which any television that isn’t a smart television including the good old idiot box can connect to a smartphone and livestream a match on the JioCinema app.
Innovative, interactive, personalised and gamified
OTT platforms are constantly coming up with unique solutions to push the envelope. Sports viewership was always immersive and engaging. However, now it is interactive too. Streaming partners of sporting events have started to include interactive features on their OTT apps that make a viewing experience more interesting.
Viacom18 is not the isolated case study here. Every OTT player is getting on to the bandwagon.
Another sports streaming platform, FanCode that was launched under Dream Code in 2019 has partnered with Google Cloud to transform the live sports viewing experience. The platform plans to take a data driven approach to increase engagement. Its new algorithm will understand viewers’ interests and match them with the relevant sports. Viewers will thus have a personalized access to content and relevant merchandise.
Then there is Formula 1. They have just launched their digital viewing platform F1 TV in India.
This app too provides an engaging experience to viewers. Fans get to switch between various camera angles including individual driver dash cams. They are also provided access to the team to and from radio communication. Other than this, the app also provides real-time leaderboard times and data, live telemetry, individual driver maps and tyre age and usage history.
India's Sports boom
As a category, sports has never really stopped growing. Thus, innovation and upgradation by brands to extend their products and services through this genre is a logical next step. Brands and sports organizations are partnering with OTT platforms to create an immersive, on-the-go viewing experience for their audience. Sporting events as a result, can be streamed on OTT channels from anywhere at any time.
According to industry reports, sports viewership stood at 772 million during the first nine months of 2022, surpassing the 2019 viewership of 776 million. Even though there was a lack of sporting events during the pandemic, the growth post the Covid-19 crisis has been vigorous.
Marketers are finding their sweet spots in sports content via digital mediums, to promote their products, services and offerings. As per a CII report, digital revenue from sports alone is estimated to grow to Rs 4360 crore by FY26, from Rs 1540 crores in FY21. This increase is highly supplemented by the estimated increase of OTT viewers in India and the add on benefit of easy-viewing that it provides.
Gamification of content and live-streaming is the new age of digital sports viewing. With more and more platforms embracing the approach and with the increasing number of internet users and hence mobile content consumers, the experience of viewing sports is likely to change all round. As advertisers take more interest in sports and digital, cost per mille (CPM), which is the cost on every thousand impressions for this genre is likely to be higher than any other content genre. Consequently, digital revenue will continue to grow as OTT platforms move towards a subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) future.