The 18-month horizon looks visibly good: Krishnan

28 Feb,2013

By A Correspondent


It was a proud day for all at Neo Sports Broadcast yesterday as the network announced winning the rights to showcase all domestic and international cricket matches played in New Zealand until 2020. The seven-year deal includes 261 days of live cricket including 18 T20s, 63 ODIs and 36 Tests and also includes rights for all of Asia excluding Middle-East.


The win means a lot to the network that’s been devoid of cricketing action, especially India-based, for some time now. Prasana Krishnan, COO, Neo Sports, tells MxMIndia on what the deal augurs for the network and also what is the growth being anticipated over an 18-month window.


You outbid quite a few players on your way to acquiring the rights for New Zealand cricket matches until 2020. What does this acquisition signal for your network?

For the Indian market, some volume of cricket is required for a sports broadcaster. While cricket prices have been going crazy and getting more aggressive in recent times, we’ve been taking a more cautious approach in terms of how and where we want make our combat and where we want to buy. So this acquisition was one of those where we felt the value was coming at a good price for us to consider and also for the fact that it is a long-term deal. More importantly, it has got 19 matches involving India and also a huge amount of cricket involving other nations.


So on a consistent basis it provides us a couple of cricketing series every year and also provides a good volume of Indian cricket. What it also does for us is in 2014, we have India touring New Zealand followed by the Asia Cup. So we have got two Series involving India which I feel will make us a strong player in the market from a medium-term perspective. If you see the content line-up that we have, I think it is as good as any other properties that you’ll have. That again helps us in capitalizing and gaining revenues in a phase where digitization is quite active. So over the next 18 months when the digitization drive takes off, having two India Series in addition to the other events in our portfolio helps us in aggressively pushing and capitalizing on those properties.


As a Board, New Zealand hasn’t been a hot property that’s been vied widely by many. Or is it?

From an overall ratings and a value perspective of the deal, the key important aspect to see is how many India matches would be played. With India playing 19 matches obviously brings in a lot of value because where the Indian market is concerned, it is about where the national team is playing. Also, even the non-India cricket series also produce decent ratings so there again well-produced high-quality production that happens enables a significant recovery of revenues for the sportscaster. Not that the ratings will be on fore but one gets a decent traction from non-India matches too.


Also, one must not forget that we have also got Asia rights that include countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc who will be touring New Zealand and therefore there will be a significant buzz in those countries as well. So there are multiple benefits that will accrue from these associated opportunities as well.


This win will be perceived as a way of bouncing back afresh given that your network was asked to give up rights of India matches a few months ago…

I won’t want to call it a bounce-back as we were very much present in the market. We had the Asia Cup and also Euro Cup last year…which was a strong line-up for us. But yes, the volume of India matches on our network had become lesser but with the two important events lined up until 2014, it will give us an opportunity to capitalize and grow. So in a sense I am content with how things are shaping up.


With a strong start to the year, are you contemplating bidding for the rights of other Boards in the near future?

Whenever there is an interesting property we keep our eyes open and evaluate opportunities. Finally it all boils down to what will be the economics of scale and whether it makes commercial sense to do it. Also it is about what will be available in the market. So if you ask me: will we be looking for more, I’d say yes. But I cannot say more on what or which properties we would be going after.


How have the other non-cricket properties delivered for your network in the recent past?

Where our channels are concerned, viewership and growth has been quite positive on the numbers front. But it is still early stages as we expect things to leapfrog once phase 2 digitization kicks off across 38 cities. We will have a clear view of what the trends are post the roll-out of phase 2 of digitization.


Will you be going after more properties in the coming months?

As said earlier, we keep our eyes open for opportunities. For example, next month we are showing the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament that will be followed by the French Open in May-June…so we do have a good mix of cricket and non-cricket properties as of now.


From a growth perspective, where do you see your network in a year’s time from now?

Rather than a year, if we look from an 18-month perspective that coupled with digitization and two Series taking place, I see a good level of growth coming from our channels. Also, we are expecting a decent support from the advertisers as well. We must understand that the spends on other sports other than cricket is also on a rise especially Tennis, Football etc that have been getting increased support from advertisers compared to the past. And anyways, we expect ad spends on cricket to be consistent, to say the least. So there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming months for us.


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