Q] How challenging was the period when live sports were suspended?
The pandemic had an impact on most of the sectors including sports. Live sports was paused due to the lockdown, thus having a direct effect on sports broadcast. However, there were dedicated efforts taken by the Star Sports network to keep sports fans engaged with innovative programming. For example, the show Cricket Connected brought cricket legends and current players to talk about various aspects of cricket, keeping consumers engaged. This helped us stay relevant and maintain the subscriptions.
Q] What were the drivers of growth that have helped increase uptake of subscription for Star Sports channels/bouquet?
One of the biggest success factors for the increase in Sports subscriptions has been our value-driven approach towards making sports accessible to as many households as possible in India. After the New Tariff Order, our pricing strategy was to ensure that we continue to provide a holistic range of sports entertainment to our viewers by offering sports with our popular value packs.
Another factor that helped us grow viewer delight is ‘regionalisation’ of sports, which has enabled choice for viewers to be able to watch and enjoy sports in their preferred language. The array of four major regional languages -- Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Bengali – that were added to our Hindi and English offerings, helped the Star Sports portfolio grow in Tamil Nadu, AP and Telangana, Karnataka and West Bengal.
We are also very active in initiating strategic partnerships with our DPOs (Distribution Platform Operators). We aid and empower them to spread awareness among their subscribers about key sporting events for the greater benefit of viewers and our distribution partners.
Q] Can you tell us the reach number of Star Sports in Pay TV homes? How many homes have been added in the last six months?
The Star Sports network enjoys a overall sports subscripton penetration of close to ~80% of Pay TV homes in the country. This includes a ~10% incremental we added over the last six months, largely driven by the marquee Dream11 IPL (Indian Premier League) 2020 tournament. The Dream 11 IPL 2020 emerged as a beacon of hope and positivity amongst families in the country and was a game-changer in reviving sports. The last quarter of 2020 was indeed fantastic for sports as live sporting action returned to TV screens. A significant measure of this was that eight out of every 10 pay-TV homes had subscribed to watch the Dream 11 IPL 2020 on a Star Sports channel. And after it, the strong footballing action on Indian Super League (ISL) helped sustain momentum and viewer interest in sports.
With the strong sporting calendar for 2021, starting with the India vs England Series, followed by IPL 2021, World Test Championship Final, Wimbledon, ICC T20 World Cup, viewers are in for a super sporting year ahead.
Q] Which markets have driven the growth?
Our two-pronged strategy for Star Sports has helped us achieve strong growth across all markets. The first part of our strategy was offering an appealing proposition for our viewers through our value-driven pricing and localisation of the Star Sports portfolio in regional languages that has enabled mass adoption of the Sports bouquet. Secondly, the distinct content offering for various markets has helped us strengthen our presence across semi-urban and rural segments too, in addition to the metros.
Q] How much of the subscription increase has been due to the regional sports channels? Which have been the biggest regional markets?
The South markets have been one of the biggest drivers for us, primarily due to their strong affinity for their local language. The penetration of Star Sports1 Tamil is close to ~90%, followed by Star Sports 1 Telugu, which stands at close to ~80%. Star Sports 1 Kannada too has seen a significant uptake. However, Karnataka, being a cosmopolitan market, also sees a strong affinity for Sports in Hindi, English, and Tamil.
Q] With a strong sports calendar for 2021, what is the growth that you anticipate?
This year is a sports powerhouse and there is something for every sports fanatic in the country, right from IPL to ISL, ICC World T20 to Formula 1, EPL to French Open, Wimbledon, and more. Cricket continues to draw maximum eyeballs and subscriptions year on year. And this year, we have a calendar that brings nine months of live cricketing action for our viewers, starting with the India vs England Series, the IPL, the ICC World T20, Asia Cup, and other marquee bilateral series.
While efforts are underway to drive volume growth, our priority, as always is, to make the best of sports programming available to our viewers.
Q] How do you see the Sports subscription scenario in India vs international markets? What is the upside in growth you see in India for sports subscriptions?
India is a multi-sporting nation in the making and viewers enjoy watching their favourite sports tournaments on TV. While cricket is ingrained in the Indian fabric and enjoys maximum subscriptions, we have also seen the rise and success of domestic leagues including the Indian Super League, and Pro Kabaddi League. We have also provided a strong platform to young sports athletes at the grassroots to develop a strong sporting culture with the Khelo India games hosted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. Sports in India cuts across demographics --age group, and gender, and the strong sporting calendar this year, with marquee properties like IPL, ICC World T20, Wimbledon, Premier League and more, will be a big draw for families to watch Star Sports.
India being a price-sensitive market, affordability has been one of the biggest factors helping grow subscriptions. By contrast, in International markets, we typically see that niche fan communities are built around various properties, and these fans are so deeply involved that they do not refrain from paying a premium to watch their favourite sports tournaments with a TV subscription.