Sony Six all set for the fight!

13 Sep,2012



By Johnson Napier


If all had gone as planned, then Sony Six, the much-hyped sports channel from Multi Screen Media, would have been the toast of sport-loving viewers in India by now. The single biggest property that was scheduled to be relayed on the channel – the IPL, was supposed to be the booster with which the channel was supposed to be flagged off in India. But that was not to be and Six was forced to launch itself in a manner that was meek by nature.


A few months into its journey and with cricket taking a minor backseat for the network, the channel is back in action with a big-ticketing property to boast. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization has partnered with Sony Six to popularise the sport in India. Owned and operated by Zuffa, LLC, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, and with offices in London, England, Toronto, Canada and Beijing, China, UFC programming is broadcast in over 150 countries and territories, to nearly one billion homes worldwide and is available in 20 different languages. It is known to produce more than 30 live events annually and is the largest Pay-Per-View event provider in the world.


While the physical sport phenomena is not new to India – made famous by WWE on Ten Sports and properties like Bellator on BIG CBS Prime – UFC seeks to change all that is associated with Mixed Martial Arts (the format on which UFC is modelled around) and get in viewers to take a liking to the sport. It is the ‘real’ fights that will attract the viewers, say the promoters, and not ‘fake’ action that gets thrown across to them.


The partnership will kick off in India with the production of an all-Indian edition of the Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s long-running reality TV show where 16 of the most talented unsigned martial artists compete for a contract with the UFC. The schedule for the same will kick off around Diwali. The actual show will be telecast in India in 2013.


On the sidelines of the launch, MxMIndia’s Johnson Napier got the chieftains of Multi Screen Media, CEO Man Jit Singh and COO NP Singh and also UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, to dwell on the gameplan for UFC in India and also what to expect from the channel Sony Six in the immediate future.


We are aiming at being the No 2 sport in India after cricket: Lorenzo


Lorenzzo Ferttita

What would be your immediate operational plans for UFC in India?

The immediate focus would be to work with Sony Six and ensure that the sport is on the right track in terms of attaining a foothold in India. In October we would be launching a massive ad campaign around UFC that would include mediums like print, radio, outdoor etc. We would also be looking at social media in a big way. A lot of our marketing activity would be focussed online on the youth in the 18-34 age bracket where the attempt would be to make them more aware of UFC and get them to be a part of our database. These would be largely centred on large metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, etc.


The only other popular sport related to what UFC attempts to do in India is WWE. What are your plans to combat the popularity of WWE and get viewers accustomed to your sport?

WWE is very different from UFC. The thing about WWE is that it is fake while UFC is real. While WWE has a large fan base but once we enter the market we expect our TG to migrate from there and become regular viewers of UFC. We follow what WWE does and we know that they have a large fan base here but we hope to attain a large market share with UFC.


Sony Six has assured that UFC will draw in more viewership numbers compared to a popular market like the US. What is your assessment of the ratings that you wish to draw from India?

I really cannot say much on that but we are relying on Sony’s expertise in the market to get us the viewership numbers. Obviously we know that we are going to be very successful here and we know that fighting dominates the sport scene and we are aiming at being the No 2 sport in India after cricket. We feel it is going to be a very successful business for us as it is very big in terms of the market.


Did you scan the market for other potential buyers for your property? What was the motive behind shortlisting Sony Six for UFC?

We spoke to every other sporting network in India and we shortlisted Sony Six because firstly, we share a pretty good relationship with Manjit Singh and we also like the fact that they broadcast the IPL, which has a huge following in India. So we liked having that connection. UFC is an important event for us. We didn’t want it to be on a general entertainment channel because the way our marketing and positioning is that we are a sport; we didn’t want to be on any other channel.


Where do you plan to head next in your bid to expand in the Asia Pacific market?

From an Asia point of view, our next stop is going to be Macau in greater China. Beyond that the focus is going to be in taking the live event to other major capitals like Shanghai, Taipei, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. So these are our next priority markets for Asia. We would be taking these events to these markets by 2013.


Hope to see Sony Six among the top-3 players in India soon: Man Jit singh


Man Jit singh

Why the decision to invest behind a physical sport that is yet to find a foothold in this country?

Our strategy is to target young India. What we have gathered is that young India is interested in new fast-pace sports and UFC is the epitome of a fast-pace sport. We have great expectations that over time we will be able to build the UFC brand and also build the audience for UFC. One has to remember that it is the fastest growing sport in the world today. In Brazil, where the sport was launched some time ago it has become a hugely successful show now. According to me, Brazil and India are similar by nature and we feel we will be able to attain a similar success in India too.


What is the USP that UFC will offer its users compared to what is already being aired by properties like WWE, etc?

It’s too premature to comment but you could take a look at the models of other fight sports that are around like WWE – it is the second-most watched sport in India after cricket. We expect to much exceed something like that because it is a real sport; it’s about real fight, there’s no pretence in what you will see the contestants doing. That’s what I feel is the core differentiator for us.


A large percentage of the TG that you plan to target is transfixed around WWE. How do you plan to convert them to like your product?

The TG for our show is youth that fall under the 18-34 year-old bracket. I feel once they get older they will migrate from make-belief to the real thing. It would be a natural progression that we hope to see happening in this space. We are already of the opinion that we have a natural base of fans that will migrate to us.


Would it be okay if children below 14 take a liking to your sport? There is a tendency for them to go overboard in terms of aping stunts, etc?

I do not see any issue with children below 14 years coming to our channel to watch the show. I have been to events where they have children even in the audience who are avid fans of the sport. Remember that it is a sport; it’s like you asking if children like to watch boxing, if they like to then why not?


Did you engage in any research exercise before you finalised on bringing in a fighting sport in India?

We had carried out research studies in the market last year where the focus was on finding out the interest levels among viewers on fight sports and the pride that our people have on the sportspersons in India. We can tell that wrestling is going to be a big thing in India because the athletes are performing well on the international platform. Also, Indians like seeing Indians do well internationally. That we feel was a natural fit for us. Our real expectations are that UFC be a very successful sport in India.


Have you managed to arouse the curiosity levels of marketers for this property?

We haven’t yet started out on advertising, sponsorships and stuff like that. We are waiting till around Diwali time to get this sport established, to get the channel fully established on all platforms and then we will go and talk to the advertisers. It will be a premium priced product though. It will be available on all platforms by October.


What are the other big-ticket properties to expect from Sony Six?

We are looking at properties like basketball, soccer, fight sports of all kinds, tennis, cycling etc.


What is the gameplan you have for Sony Six in the coming one year?

We hope to see Sony Six be among the top 3 sports channels in the country.


Sony Six will become the home for new sports in India: NP Singh


NP Singh

What promise does an event like UFC hold for Sony Six in India?

Traditionally, fight sports have always been popular in India. Through UFC the attempt is to get real fight sport made available on Indian television, which the youth too will be able to connect with. It would a good example for the youth to look up to a real sport like UFC and inspire them to face real life challenges. UFC holds a lot of promise for Sony Six and for the youth of the country.


What’s the next step for UFC in India?

The journey has just begun. We would be showcasing a lot of the UFC Talent hunt everyday on Sony Six. Getting the local talent to come and register for the ultimate fight will start soon.


The buzz is that you plan to tap in the viewership from IPL and convert them to watch UFC. Do you think the attempt will fetch you high viewership for UFC?

UFC in the US attracts a viewership of 20 million whereas for the last season of IPL the number was 163 million. So that’s the size that we are talking about. We hope to better the numbers that a big market like the US throws up for UFC. We have just launched our channel a few months ago but it is already being beamed across 30 million homes. Also, we have still not completed our distribution but by the time we are done it will be in double those homes. One should understand that our country has a high percentage of youth and of late they have started taking a liking to other sports like football, F1 etc. We believe that Sony Six will become the home for new sports in India. I am much more confident that we will manage to engage the youth much more than any other sports channel in India.


Does India need a sport like UFC in the first place?

Through UFC, we hope to establish Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in the Indian market which I am sure will benefit everyone concerned.


Sony Six was launched a few months ago but is yet to see traction in terms of viewers and properties. Your comments?

We are first trying to establish the channel and within that the sport has to be established. Our efforts are on. UFC is one big step in that direction.


The UFC deal seems to be heavy on investment. Would you be going all out to promote the event in India?

As a network we have never stopped short of making investments in every new initiative that we take. Likewise would be the case with Sony Six and with UFC. Anything that we as a network do we do it big. UFC will too be in the big league for us. For one, we are positioning ourselves differently by calling ourselves a sports entertainment channel. Entertainment is in our DNA so everything and anything that we do will be garnished with a lot of entertainment.


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3 responses to “Sony Six all set for the fight!”

  1. B.Roy says:

    When ther’ll be simultaneous matches during last group stage matches of FIFA WORLD CUP which other sister channel of Sony Six will broadcast the matches ???

  2. Ank92 says:

    no six which is UFC’s media partner doesn’t have time to telecast UFC all they
    know is IPL

  3. Deepak Kr says:

    I love to watch UFC but Sony Six isn’t on Tata Sky, I’ll change my service provider soon coz I can’t wait to see Velasquez, Overeem, Junior dos santos and Brock Lesnar compete.

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