business of sport

With the rise of OTT platforms, are more Indians watching the IPL on their phones than television?

Live sport is a natural player for over-the-top, or OTT, content platforms such as Hotstar, which offer something television can't.

The Indian Premier League, whose 10th season began on April 5, crossed the billion mark in television viewership last year. The 2016 edition of the Indian domestic Twenty20 league had a viewership of 1.02 billion across five television channels, according to figures released by the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India. Out of this, the overall reach of the tournament, which is the number of unique viewers, stood at 361 million, according to Sony Pictures Networks, which owns broadcast rights for the IPL until the 2017 season. Expect both those numbers, viewer impressions and reach, to swell for this season.

However, television isn’t the only medium on which IPL matches are being shown in India. Not since 2015, when Star India won the digital and media rights for the tournament. In its first season, as many as 41 million people watched IPL 8 on Star’s over-the-top (OTT) content platform, Hotstar, which has a website and an app. The following year, for IPL 9, the figure crossed the 100 million mark on Hotstar and its partners, according to the company’s own figures. Around 77 million of those viewers were on Hotstar itself. This is in spite of there being a mandatory five-minute delay in Hotstar’s feed compared with television.

Hotstar’s target for the ongoing IPL 10 is 100 million on its own platform and 130 million overall. If these numbers are to be believed, and if Hotstar reaches its target, 41 million to 130 million in two years is a significant jump, especially considering that the platform is barely two years old. Hotstar was launched during the 2015 cricket World Cup and drew a record 340 million overall views, not unique, during that tournament.

The BARC does not have the overall television viewership figures for IPL before the 2016 season. However, last year, IPL 9 saw an unexpected drop in viewership on a week-by-week basis. From 147.23 million in the first week of IPL 9, viewership dropped to 130.38 million during the playoffs week. While that does not necessarily mean that viewers switched from television to OTT during that period, digital’s rise in the last two years could be a game-changer in live sports coverage in India.

Flexible access

Television technology continues to advance, from high-definition (HD) to 4K resolution. Watching a game on a six-inch smartphone screen does not have the same feel as sitting back on the couch and watching it on a 50-inch HD TV. OTT platforms would be irrelevant if people had access to TV everywhere. But that’s not the case. The flexibility of having the option to catch a live match on your phone when you’re on the move is what OTT platforms can offer, and TV can’t. OTT platforms provide flexible access, anytime and anywhere. All you need is a smartphone and a good internet connection.

Watching sports is a “lean-back consumption method”, said Harish Krishnamachar, founding partner of Sportoid Sports Solutions, a sports management company. “Unless you’re playing a sport or a game on electronic devices, you’re not leaning forward. You might be leaning back and having a glass of your preferred beverage, you’re basically relaxing and watching sport.”

OTT, on the other hand, is a “lean-forward and individual consumption method”, he said. “You’ve got your phone, tablet and you’re looking at it. To me, looking at it as a consumer, it’s not the most conducive. But having said that, I was driving down from Dharamsala after attending the first two days of the India-Australia Test match [last month] and I had Hotstar on, because I wanted to get updates and see what was happening. It was a riveting day three, which I could not watch in the stadium. But if people have the choice of a large TV with their preferred beverage, that’s what they would use.”

OTT players offer the flexibility of catching a live match on your phone when you’re on the move (Reuters)
OTT players offer the flexibility of catching a live match on your phone when you’re on the move (Reuters)

But in today’s social dynamics, either because of long office hours or commute time, a working person in a city would be at home only from 9 pm to 8 am on average, said Thomas Abraham, co-founder of Sportzpower, a sports media and marketing company. “Outside that whole period, what is your consumption platform? It has to be OTT.”

The major drivers for consumption on OTT platforms would be live sports and news, Abraham added. “Live sport is a natural player for OTT. There isn’t that big a pull for traditional television shows on OTT. Even if it is a show as popular as Game of Thrones, you would prefer to watch it at home after work.” But not live sport, which loses its currency once the match is over.

Sports on OTT works because a lot of sports channels are paid, said Vinayan Verenkar, head of digital video (OTT) at Network18. “If you want to add Star Sports to your monthly subscription of [direct-to-home satellite TV provider] Tata Sky, there is an additional fee for that. On Hotstar, you can have the app installed and watch live sports anywhere. That’s the flexibility and accessibility Hotstar has provided.”

Smartphones and youth

There are as many as 38 OTT players in India at the moment, Verenkar said. The rise of OTT in India has been fuelled by a boom in the country’s smartphone market. In 2016, the number of smartphone users in India crossed the 300 million mark, which is just a fourth of the country’s population, but almost as much as that of the United States. The number of mobile internet users in India will cross the 500 million mark in 2017, according to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

In terms of internet speed, however, India is still lags behind the rest of the world. The average internet speed in the country in the third quarter of 2016 was 4.1 Mbps, which is the lowest in the Asia Pacific region, according to the “State of the Internet” report by NASSCOM-Akamai. However, this is fast changing. Reliance Jio’s monthly average mobile broadband speed in February was 16.48 Mbps, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Idea Cellular came in second at 8.33 Mbps and Airtel third at 7.66 Mbps.

Videos are expected to drive 72% of all internet traffic in India by 2018, up from 45% in 2013, according to a study by Deloitte. “This traffic would include online streaming services like YouTube, VoD [Video on Demand] services such as Netflix and mobile TV services like nexGTv, Ditto and TataSky etc,” the report said. “As most of Indian internet users will access the internet through mobile devices, a large part of the video traffic is expected to flow through mobile devices,” it added. The global audio and video traffic combined is expected to reach 82% of all internet traffic by 2018, according to a study by Cisco.

OTT platforms in India are targeting a younger demographic. Around 75% of internet users in India are in the age group of less than 35 years. More than 50% of the smartphone app users in India are aged between 18 and 24, and 29% between 25 and 35. More than 80% of IPL viewers on Hotstar last season were less than 35 years old, the company said. Hotstar also has a term for its target IPL audience – the “affluent metro youth”, which are cricket fans over the age of 15 who live in the largest six cities in the country. Hotstar claimed that it was the primary screen for IPL in this category, with 49 million viewers during the first 59 matches of IPL 2016, compared with television’s reach of 29 million.

There is no way to verify Hotstar’s figures, but Krishnamachar said he would struggle to accept them on face value, adding that time spent watching the match would be a more important metric than views. “We don’t know if these are duplicated or non-duplicated figures, are they comparing apples and apples?” he said. “Assuming they are, my sense is that the differentiator is going to be how much time do you spend on an OTT platform versus how much time do you spend in front of a TV. My hypothesis is that the OTT platforms will have less time spent on them overall, but more time spent on them while people are on the move.”

While that is true, the difference isn’t much. Hotstar said that the average time spent on its platform per user ranges from 30-35 minutes for an IPL match. This is not very far off from Sony’s average viewership time for IPL 2015, which stood at just over 46 minutes.

How do Hotstar’s viewership figures translate into advertising revenue? Are advertisers being attracted towards digital? How does that in turn affect the value of the digital rights? Are digital rights as lucrative as broadcast rights?

All this in Part 2 of the story, which will be published on April 13.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.