(Source: PTI)

Rs 60 Crore Per Match ‘Not Expensive’, Says Uday Shankar

Star India’s Rs 6,138 crore bid for the broadcast rights of domestic and international cricket for the next five years is a ‘fair and reasonable price’, according to Uday Shankar.

“Rs 60 crore is the average,” Shankar, president of 21st Century Fox Asia, told BloombergQuint in an interview. In the first few years Star India would be paying less than Rs 50 crore per match, he added.

As the economy moves and media market gets bigger and better, the ability to advertise sports will get better.  
Uday Shankar, President, 21st Century Fox Asia

Star India won the BCCI auction for broadcast and digital rights of all cricket played in India, pipping Sony and Jio. Star also ended up paying nearly 60 percent more to retain the rights that it has held since 2013.

It had also successfully bagged rights to the Indian Premiere League last September with a staggering bid of Rs 16,347.50 crore; a number that was greater than all other combined bids. With the latest successful bid, Star India now has a virtual monopoly over Indian cricket broadcast.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

At Rs 60 crore per domestic game, do you think it is a tad expensive?

No,I don’t think it is expensive. Rs 60 crore is average. It is spread over five years. In the first few years, we are paying less than Rs 50 crores. So, it steps up as we go along. As the economy moves, media market gets bigger and better and the ability to advertise sports get better. All those factors taken together, I think it is a fair and reasonable price. Other bidders were willing to pay the same amount of money where we are number one with narrow margin like Rs 20 crores.

On an average, you have paid in a way more than IPL game . Does it match up in terms of viewership?

When Indian team plays, the ratings are better than the average IPL match. Some games rate very highly but so do the national team ratings. When the Indian team players plays with England, Australia, Pakistan,then the ratings are really big. Even for tier 2 teams, the ratings are big because the national sentiments begin to play in there. The challenge is in test matches which have niche audiences and they do not get that kind of rating. But when you see it overall as a bundle of product, I think the price that we have paid, in our view, is acceptable.

What is the big picture for Star Sports and Indian Cricket?

Our journey in sports has been relatively recent. We used to be present through a joint venture. But on Star India, it started in 2012. We stuck with the rights that were available to us. But we had a plan that over a period of time, we will turn over the rights and what we believe to be an optimum portfolio which is ICC+IPL+BCCI and it took 6-6.5 years to get it. We are really excited that we have got there. In the process, we have noticed that we have also surrendered many rights. For example, the bilateral rights with the Australian board and the British Cricket Board. It is always a journey. Now, we have come to this balanced position where we have the rights that we need. It is selective, but it is all very high quality.

What will be unique this year as Star is hosting the IPL this year?

There are lots of things. IPL has been done very well over the last 10 years. BCCI has done an amazing job of developing that asset. So, the core will remain the same. At Star, we are very committed to taking content in people’s languages deeper and you will see a massive push in that direction. For the first time IPL commentary will be available as a separate independently produced feed in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali besides in English. IPL is focused on mass markets, the evolved and educated fans of cricket didn’t get enough and we are creating a Star Sports Select content for the evolved fans of cricket who want to go deeper . You will see lot more pace and investment in quality of pictures and graphics. So, you will see a bunch of things. It is already a property which is so high in understanding of the consumption and taste of the fans in this country. We should be able to delight them more this year.

Are there are new avenues of monetizing the content which have been developed?

Hotstar has been there since three years. Its reception among sports lover and content lovers has been phenomenal. It has become one of the most successful content destination in the world. I can’t recall any other sport’s digital destination which is as big as Hotstar. So, we thought it was the right time to start offering subscription service. It will be available as a non-delayed service as the free string used to be delayed for few minutes. It is very attractive from price point, it is Rs 299 for the whole year of all sports which is very compelling in our view. We have also created a lot more attraction. There is a game for them which will be even more engaging. There will be virtual reality experiences which will be done live for the first time for any sports tournament. I think Hotstar has leaped to new level where it is a very cutting edge contemporary digital destination.

Is there any revenue target for IPL 2018?

There is a revenue target. I am constrained not to share the details with you. IPL was always very well monetised but we have managed to reinvent the monetisation model and that is why we have reset the revenue thresholds comprehensively this year.