The ICC cricket World Cup 2015 in Australia and New Zealand has a lot of firsts attached to it compared to its previous editions.
To begin with, the ownership of ICC rights has come under Star India following the acquisition of Walt Disney’s stake in ESPN Star Sports by Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty First Century Fox (erstwhile News Corporation). The India part of the business came under Star while the remaining part was merged with Fox International Channels (FIC).
Another major difference is the unprecedented scale of broadcast coverage of the event powered by the Star India network.
The upcoming ICC cricket World Cup (CWC) 2015 will have a record reach as Star will telecast the tournament not just on its sports network but also on its regional channels.
Altogether the event will be broadcast on 12 channels in six languages.
Of the 12 channels, eight are sports channels which include four standard-definition (SD) and four high-definition (HD) channels. As reported first by TelevisioPost.com, the broadcaster is launching two more HD channels, including one in Hindi, to take the total number of sports channels to eight.
Besides the sports network, the tournament will be telecast on Star Vijay (Tamil), Jalsha Movies (Bengali), Asianet Movies (Malayalam) and Suvarna Plus. Incidentally, Asianet Movies and Suvarna Plus will go pay from 7 February.
According to sources, the regional feed will be available only for India matches besides few select top-notch games.
The telecast on entertainment channels follows a similar strategy followed by Star for local sporting leagues like Indian Super League (ISL) and Pro Kabaddi League.
Talking to Economic Times, Star India COO Sanjay Gupta said the regional feeds will make it more accessible for viewers. “Our strategy to broadcast in four regional languages will make the World Cup more accessible,” Gupta said.
Complementing the broadcast coverage will be live streaming of the tournament on starsports.com, the online sports destination of Star, which has seen great traction since its launch.
By contrast, the ICC CWC 2011 was broadcast on just three channels, namely ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket, and had only two feeds, English and Hindi. The 2011 event, however, was also live-streamed on espnstar.com.
Distribution and RIO
Unlike the previous edition when the ESPN Star Sports channels were offered as part of packages by multi-system operators (MSOs), this time around Star channels will be available on a la carte. This follows Star India’s strategy of offering its channels to MSOs only on reference interconnect offer (RIO) for a period of one year.
Of course, Star had come out with an incentive scheme for MSOs to put Star channels in packages with guaranteed penetration and LCN. MSOs have since then offered certain Star channels as part of a basic package. The sports channels come in a higher tiered offering.
Another area where the two events contrast is that the 2015 CWC will see the first-ever cricket broadcast in 4K resolution or Ultra HD (UHD) format. According to ET, Star will broadcast seven matches including the semi-finals and final in 4K. With an eye on the World Cup, direct-to-home (DTH) operators like Tata Sky and Videocon d2h are enticing consumers with UHD set-top boxes (STBs).
Videocon d2h 4K STB will be available for Rs 6,590 for new customers and Rs 5,990 for existing customers. Tata Sky has priced new connection at Rs 6,400, while existing subscribers can avail the box at Rs 5,900.
Advertising on regional feeds
Another first for the event is advertising on regional feeds for the World Cup. Star is selling advertising separately for its regional feeds with the objective of widening the advertisers’ pool.
“Cricket, and especially the World Cup, is usually considered expensive and only very large advertisers were able to access it so far. We are also seeing interest from brands that have not been into cricket before and contribution from these new advertisers will be very high,” Gupta has been quoted as saying.
According to the ET report, Star is asking Rs 500,000 per 10 seconds for national advertisers while the rate for South Indian regional feeds is Rs 125,000.
Concerns over the timing of matches notwithstanding, Star has roped in four advertisers for the event including Maruti Suzuki, Nestle, Raymond and Yepme.
Raymond Lifestyle CMO Ritesh Ghosal told TelevisionPost.com that the World Cup was a perfect platform to launch its brand campaigns. The strategic scheduling of India matches during weekends also made it an attractive proposition for an advertiser.
“We have signed up as associate sponsor for the ICC Cricket World Cup. We are coming out with two big product campaigns during March-April therefore we chose to advertise during World Cup. The India matches are during the weekend. Our ads will also be carried during the highlights. Another reason why we chose World Cup is because the category clutter is less during this period since competition doesn’t advertise much,” said Ghosal.
Havas Media Group India and South Asia CEO Anita Nayyar said that Star is providing customised offering for advertisers like regional feeds, India matches and timing-specific packages. While admitting that the timings are a concern for advertisers, the scale of the event and its impact makes it attractive.
“Yes, there are concerns on the timings; however, India matches will certainly garner better viewership than the others. At the average level, the viewership will not get affected,” said Nayyar. She also said that the flexibility in packaging by Star will result in a better ROI.
Dentsu Aegis Network Chairman & CEO South Asia Ashish Bhasin said that the performance of India matches will determine the success of the tournament. “If Indian team does well, then viewership will be higher and it will also have a rub-off effect on non-India matches. However, if Indian team does badly, then the interest will certainly wane. So advertisers are evaluating their options,” averred Bhasin.