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Star’s sports biz looks to break-even in FY18

MUMBAI: Star India is looking to turnaround its loss-making sports business this financial year even as it readies to bid for the television and digital rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The company, which has invested over Rs 20,000 crore in the sports business, is eyeing operational break-even from this segment in FY18. The Indian subsidiary of 21st Century Fox has a July-June financial cycle.

With the segment seeing revenue and viewership growth, Star should see break-even in the sports business in FY18, Star India managing director Sanjay Gupta told a section of media.

The sports business will have three buckets and Star will continue to launch sports channels in regional languages. The company, which has already launched a sports channel in Tamil, is looking at Telugu and Kannada languages in the next phase.

With the launch of Star Sports First in the free to air (FTA) genre, Star will target people who do not have access to pay television and have only watched sports content on Doordarshan. Star Sports First will launch on Freedish, Doordarshan’s subscription-free DTH platform, on 21 July.

“The FTA market in the Hindi heartland – UP, MP, Bihar – hasn’t had access to sports. The only sports that reaches them is DD Sports and that will have only one or two big matches of India and they don’t even get to know what is happening in the world of sport. So Star Sports First will be the first handshake for those viewers with sports,” The Economic Times quoted Gupta as saying.

Star Sports 1 and 2 will be pay channels with popular sports content like cricket, kabaddi and football. “In the second bucket will be the popular sports in English, Hindi, Tamil and future channels in other regional languages. 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,” Gupta told ET.

Star Sports Select will be the top layer and have all international content. It will show English Premier League, Bundesliga, Wimbledon, French Open and other international cricket from South Africa, England, and Australia.

Gupta also said that Star will bid for the TV and digital media rights of IPL. “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.”

The five-year media rights for IPL are up for grabs.

Gupta told Mint that this is the first big year for sports beyond cricket. “This year, across companies, across businesses, sports beyond cricket will clock sponsorship revenue of close to $100 million (Rs647.8 crore), this number was zero in 2013. I think this is the first big year for other sports because earlier, people were still tentative, they were still not sure if these (leagues) would stay. In the first few years, everyone is wondering if it’s a one-off or is it a real sustainable phenomenon. The last year has proven that it is,” he said.

Star India’s digital business is still in the investment phase. Though Hotstar’s revenues are increasing, it still requires investments. “Digital continues to be in its growth phase, it will need investments. It’s difficult to predict the timing for profitability, but it’s changing so fast, growing so quickly and the opportunity is so large that it’s difficult to comment on how long it will take,” Mint quoted Gupta as saying.

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