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MSM to launch a sports channel
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Mumbai: There’s a new player warming up on the sidelines of television’s already crowded scrum of sports channels. Broadcast network Multi Screen Media (MSM) will launch a new sports channel to cash in on the popularity of its exclusively-owned, million-dollar property, the Indian Premier League, or IPL. MSM runs a diversified bouquet of channels, including Sony Entertainment Television, SAB TV, Set Max and Channel 8.

“We should float a new sports channel in the next six to nine months,” confirmed MSM COO NP Singh. He said the company is acquiring sports events in soccer, basketball and wrestling.

“We already have IPL and once we have enough content, we will launch our sports channel,” he said.

<img style="float:right; margin: 0px 0px 0px 10px;" src="http://static.expressindia.com/expressindia/newpic/share.jpg" />Besides IPL, the network has broadcast rights to the New Zealand cricket series and the Football Association Challenge Cup, popularly known as the FA Cup. MSM bagged IPL broadcast rights for ten years for $1.2 billion. “It was a pretty steeply priced acquisition. They will have to look for options to make good this investment. A sports channel, therefore, does make sense,” said a Mumbai-based analyst working with a management consultancy.

Industry experts say given its immense popularity among viewers and, consequently, advertisers, IPL alone is enough to sustain a dedicated sports channel. Neo Sports, which owned exclusive broadcast rights to matches organised by Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) had launched Neo Cricket mainly on the strength of that acquisition.

Sports channels gross Rs 1,500-1,600 crore in advertising annually, even though their share in the overall television viewership pie has shrunk in the past few years. According to Mumbai-based audience measurement agency TAM Media Research, sports channels account for 2.7% of overall viewership. The genre had peaked in 2004, when the share was 4.8%.

MSM has always had an interest in sporting events. It bagged exclusive cable & satellite television rights for ICC tournaments from 2003 to 2007. Set Max, its films & events channel, has beamed over 300 days of international cricket including the Cricket World Cup, ICC championship, and under-19 World Cup since 2003.

Media planners are also positive about MSM’s plan to venture into the sports genre. Shashi Sinha, CEO of media buying agency Lodestar Universal, said: “The only property that has taken off well in India is cricket, but there is potential for many other sporting events. Therefore, to that extent, Sony has an advantage.”

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