ESPN tapping into rising interest in non-cricket sports in India
Mumbai: US sports broadcaster ESPN is using its digital operations in India to tap into growing demand for sports other than cricket, a top company executive said.
“We’re building a multi-sports habit in India,” said Russell E. Wolff, executive vice-president and managing director, International, for ESPN. “ESPN has been in India for a long time and we’ve seen real increase in demand for multi-sports, in the NBA (National Basketball Association), and the NFL (National Football Association),” he said. The NBA and NFL are sporting leagues in the US.
Wolff was in India to inaugurate a “Safe Space” for underprivileged children to play sports in Bengaluru.
ESPN has seen sharp increase in traffic to content for these sports on its newly launched website for sports content, ESPN.in—the company has seen 43% increase year-on-year in unique views for football, 160% in tennis, 200% in badminton and 60% in basketball, Wolff said. ESPN.in and its app were launched in June last year to cater to Indian audiences that wanted content on cricket and other sports as well, Mint reported on 2 June 2016. ESPN also owns cricinfo.com, one of the largest websites for cricket commentary and related content.
For broadcast, ESPN has two co-branded channel with Sony, with which it is in a joint venture.
Overall, ESPN.in saw 24% year-on-year increase in unique views to 25 million a month, Wolff said. Much of the activity on the website is led by video, which rose 150% year-on-year, and mobile viewing continues to dominate, Wolff said, with 78% of all traffic to ESPN.in and ESPNcricinfo coming through mobile devices. “India is really a mobile first market,” Wolff said.
The demand for new sports outside cricket comes at a time when sporting leagues for hockey, football and kabaddi are rising in India. Meanwhile, interest in badminton has also seen a rise with Indian players, including P.V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth winning international tournaments. Sindhu became prominent with her sudden rise in brand endorsements this year, Mint reported on 30 March
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