Star India sells 76% inventory for IPL 2020 amid tough ad environment

MUMBAI: The difficult ad environment notwithstanding, Star India has sold 76% of its inventory for the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL). The broadcaster has signed 13 sponsors including Vivo, Coca Cola, Maruti, Nestle, Amazon, and Dream11.

According to a source, the company is targeting a 24% ad revenue growth from television and is aiming to double ad revenue on Hotstar.

“With about 40 days left the response has been quite good. Star India has sold 76% of the ad inventory. The broadcaster has signed all the lead sponsors many of whom are returning. On television, pricing is up by 23-24%. The sponsorship package rates range from Rs. 60-190 crore on television. On digital packages range from Rs. 20-50 crores. Star Sports has signed 13 sponsors including nine for television. On digital huge targeting options are available and targeting can be done by the city, gender, phone type etc,” the source said.

However, a media buyer said that a big jump is not possible considering the market condition. “A huge jump is not possible. Nobody is willing to pay such a huge premium. I think that revenue growth will be around 15%,” said a media buyer.

Another expert noted that there is less money in the market. “Categories are struggling with the slowdown. Not many companies will be able to spend Rs. 100 crore on one property.”

The broadcaster is also mulling a Malayalam feed and feels that there is an opportunity to grow viewership in the South. Star has already received the licence to launch Star Sports 1 Malayalam. The broadcaster is also aiming to attract more women and children viewers.

On digital, the broadcaster is said to be targeting a reach of 400 million up from 300 million last year. Hotstar, the source said, will launch a Super App for the IPL and other major cricket properties.

The source stated that one thing that works in Star India’s favour is that only Sundays have 4 pm matches. That means people will get to see more matches in primetime and the aim is to have people watch 15-16 matches on an average at least compared to 12 last time.

Also, 139 commentators have been signed so far and a few more will be signed up. Last year, around 128 commentators were on-board.

Asked about the impact of new tariff order (NTO), the source noted that the reach of sports genre went up last year by 5% while GEC, news and some of the other genres fell. The source feels that NTO 2.0, which is under legal challenge, is not a concern.

The source said that during a squeeze people go for the biggest properties that they cannot afford to miss. The opening match and Sundays are a great time to get families. So, the entertainment and movie channels of Star will air IPL matches during these days.

For the movie channels, a specific family feed will be created that will not be too heavy on stats. Meanwhile, Dugout which is technical and analytical in nature will return on Star Sports Select. The aim is to cater to all audiences.

In terms of language feeds, the broadcaster has English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and Bangla. The broadcaster is looking at introducing Malayalam and this is the only thing uncertain. The broadcaster is seeing how to fit this in.

From next week, the broadcaster will be doing franchise-based shows and looking at how they are gearing up. The marketing campaign will start much earlier a month before the event starts compared to 15 days in the past.

The source said that the afternoon games on Sundays will boost viewership. “That naturally should give a boost to ratings. The first game typically makes a big difference. This time it is CSK versus MI.”

The source added that the South provides a huge opportunity to grow. Secondly, people watch 10-12 games a season and there is an opportunity to get people to see more games. This should happen as afternoon matches will not happen on Saturday anymore.

The source that another big scope for improvement continues to be women and children. Males and the youth anyway tune in a lot. Therefore, the hope is that the family feed will result in sampling on Star India’s entertainment and movie channels and once they do then they will want to watch more of it.

The source speaking on interactivity said that some degree happens on a live game which is social feeds. This gives people the chance to interact with friends. So, some commentators are present on that. “The IPL is such a big event that platforms like Twitter, Facebook will anyway have a lot of chatter on what is happening. Interactivity will anyway be quite high.”

Star Sports, the source, added is building a mega app for cricket within the Hotstar app. The belief is that it should work well. The aim is to get a reach of 400 million compared to 300 million last year.

The super app, the source said, aims to build engagement. It will be the fastest score provider. It will have on-demand videos and provide engagement between friends and engagement between a commentator and an individual.

It will also feature leader boards. The technology challenges lie in handling millions of concurrent feeds. “This does not happen anywhere else in the world. It will really be an effort on the broadcaster’s part. Speeds vary across the country. Someone who is on a 40k line should have the same experience as someone who is on a 100mbps line. That is some that Star India is working on to ensure that the viewing experience is not compromised.”

In terms of reach on digital, the source said that various people are being spoken to. There is a deal with Reliance Jio. Last year also there was no deal with Airtel and Vodafone but still the numbers grew quite tremendously. Having said that 90% of the IPL’s viewership is on television. Digital viewership happens late at night or when people are travelling to return home.

The source added that the IPL is perceived to be about serious cricket where the competition is the toughest as the top stars play. It is seen as being the most professionally organised cricket tourney in the world. “New superstars are making it interesting.”

Therefore, Star’s focus will be on treating the event in that manner and not make the event an entertainment-based product said the source. In terms of international markets, the IPL gets decent traction in places like the UK, the Middle East, and Singapore said the source.

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