MSM hits the ball hard for Six

09 Apr,2012

By Rishi Vora


It’s been about two years since it was first heard that Multi Screen Media Pvt Ltd (MSM) will launch a sports channel. The wait is finally over as the channel was launched on April 7. This is MSM’s sixth channel – one of the reasons why the network chose ‘Six’ as its brand name.


The TG for Six is skewed slightly towards the younger lot of sports fanatics and the first phase of the content plan is to  make most of the Indian Premier League’s five editions and evoke special interest among fans to watch non-cricketing sports such as mixed martial arts, basketball, badminton and football. Its main property, to begin with, is Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a martial arts contest that has more than 30 events globally. The next season of IPL will be aired on Six.


The channel will reach out to 80 million homes on DTH and analog platforms in India with a reach of 20 million in phase 1.


Six is being promoted heavily on network channels and the on-air biggest cricketing property, IPL. Quite surprisingly, the channel has not gone for a 360-degree marketing blitzkrieg – the usual strategy adopted to support the launch. It is learnt that outdoor and radio will subsequently follow promotions on TV.


If one looks at the sports broadcast arena as is currently placed, it makes an interesting read. Neo Sports and Ten Sports are facing a tough time sustaining business. And, of course, the fact that IPL was running on a sticky wicket as far as sponsors are concerned, tells the story – that advertisers feel there’s no point investing big monies where the returns are not very good. Plus, the recent development of Star winning the BCCI rights… something which MSM was eyeing to provide that much required impetus for the new channel, is a sure-shot big miss of opportunity.


“We have the IPL and as we move along, we hope to acquire more rights,” said NP Singh, Network COO. He confessed that the BCCI rights was an opportunity missed, however, he also said: “It was in our long term interest to launch a sports channel. We had been talking about it, so it wouldn’t have made sense to further delay the launch just because we did not win the rights to broadcast Indian cricket.”


According to a senior media planner who wished anonymity, the launch of Six has happened at a time where it may not be easy for the channel to make a mark. “Cricket is the only sport India loves. Besides IPL, Six doesn’t have much to offer. Also, there isn’t much left as far as rights are concerned, so the channel will really have to do well on non-cricketing sports, which is a big challenge in a country like India.”


Ms Basabdatta Chowdhury, CEO, Platinum Media is of the opinion that though the channel might face many roadblocks, in the end it’ll be a sustainable business. “I think there is space for one more sports channel. It depends on what kind of content they bring to the channel. Football is quite popular in some sections of the country and they will look to target them. Similarly, other sports which have their specific audiences in the country. If the channel does well in targeting these niche sections, it’ll sustain. And of course, they have the IPL and the New Zealand board for cricket lovers.”


Mr Anwesh Bose, Senior Vice President, DDB Mudra Max offers a similar view: “MSM has made very good profits this year and that would give them muscle to gain rights from other cricket boards around the world, they already have the New Zealand Cricket rights. In addition, there is football and a few other sports to look forward to. With the new channel, new vistas would open for Sony and given their past successes, they can surely make a profitable venture out of the sports channel.”


He further added: “They still have five years of IPL left and they will make good use of it.”


Overall, there are mixed reactions on the prospects of MSM’s new channel, Six. One major worrying factor is that there aren’t many rights left to be acquired, and those which are, are available at exorbitant prices, making sports broadcast a challenging business.


As the Network’s COO mentioned, every time they’ll (channel execs) step out to get the much important rights, the attempt will be to go for a six.


Time will tell how well they hit the ball.


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