New Delhi: Driven by a regional language push and live streaming, broadcaster Star India Pvt. Ltd aims to reach over 700 million people in the 2018 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) across its 10 sports channels and streaming service Hotstar.
“IPL will bring to the fore the power of sports and the power of technology in 2018. This is the biggest content property on TV and other screens. It has been built well over the last decade and has grown dramatically. We believe IPL can be re-imagined completely to grow even faster and more dramatically over the next five years as Star takes charge of it. The scale of investment and ambition is being put behind making IPL work in different languages for different consumers," said Sanjay Gupta, managing director, Star India.
The broadcaster, which won the television, digital, Indian and global media rights to IPL for the next five seasons for Rs16,347.50 crore in September, will do so through local content feeds in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali across TV and digital, besides Hindi and English.
Star India will have seven different live feeds for IPL both on TV and digital each. There will be six language feeds and a Super Fan Feed on Star Sports Select in English.
“One of the things that we have learnt over the past decade or so as we moved from Hindi entertainment to regional entertainment is the power of language and localisation in the business. That is something that has helped Star and kept Star in very good stead. We have become a much larger organisation as we started investing in making our drama content local in many languages beyond Hindi. We want to apply the same learning and thinking to sports," Gupta said.
Star India has doubled its viewership share on the back of regional content in both dramas and movies. It has also seen similar success with Pro Kabaddi League, in which Star India is a principal owner. “It’s been one of the biggest drivers of share gain in Star India over the last 8-9 years," he added.
Star India aims to become a regional sports network in the next six months.
The company has already started ad sale conversations with brands for IPL 11 which starts in April 2018.
“We are offering a wide array of options to advertisers given that there are seven feeds—both on TV and digital. They could choose to go for TV plus digital, only digital, and regional only etc., all permutations and combinations are available to them," Gupta said.
Star India’s second big bet is the IPL live feed on the internet, a first so far.
“We have been streaming IPL online for the last four years. So far IPL had a five-minute delayed feed on Hotstar compared to TV. Now for the first time we will be putting IPL live on the internet," Gupta added.
While IPL is expected to go behind a digital paywall in the upcoming season, the finer details in terms of price points and the exact nature of the experience will be determined in the coming weeks.
“We are currently in conversations with multiple telcos for partnerships for opening up the live feed to their consumers. The telecom partners may come in and pay on behalf of their subscribers," explained Ajit Mohan, chief executive at Hotstar.
“We will create a much more massy product compared to Hotstar premium (their subscription service at Rs199 a month), the exact price points will be decided in the coming months," Mohan added.
The cumulative reach of IPL 10 on Hotstar for the months of April and May across the 60 matches played was 130 million while the reach on TV was 410 million.
“One of the things that we are doing this year is we are going to have is a very visible cricket score unit for anyone who comes to Hotstar. There will be a score ticker even on the phone screen," Mohan said.
At present, Hotstar has over 400 million downloads and has consistently topped video rankings in terms of monthly active usage in the country.