Viacom18’s aggressive hirings, acquiring media rights hint at the launch of sports channel shortly

Viacom18 Media Private Limited is a joint venture between ViacomCBS and Network18.

Viacom18 is widely popular in the Indian broadcasting industry with having numerous channels to entertain and inform people. With the acquisition of some of the popular sports leagues along with the hiring of some top professionals from the competitors’ channels, Viacom18 reportedly aims to launch a sports channel soon.

Viacom18 Media Private Limited is a joint venture between the American entertainment conglomerate, ViacomCBS and Mukesh Ambani’s Network18. It was founded back in 2007 and the first channel that the company launched was Colors TV, in the same year.

Later on, as the years passed by it has made a name for itself in the industry as it launched various entertainment, music and news channels. They also currently provide kids entertainment channels.

However, despite having such a big market holding, Viacom18 currently doesn’t has any channels dedicated particularly for sports. Currently, it has some of the major sports leagues under its media rights portfolio.

Viacom18 has shown some major movement in the sports broadcasting market, securing some lucrative media rights deals and reports suggest that the broadcasting company is inching closer to launching its first sports channel.

Acquiring media rights of some well-known global sports competitions:

The company first commenced its media rights adventure in 2018 as they bid and owned the broadcasting rights of the Nidahas Trophy, which was a triangular cricket series between India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The matches of the series were live telecasted on Rishtey Cineplex, which was a movie channel and received an overwhelming viewership response.

Following this, the broadcasting group has signed some major media rights deals earlier this year. They acquired the broadcasting rights of the Abu Dhabi T10 League, which just got wrapped up on December 4. The matches were telecasted on Colors Cineplex, Colors Cineplex HD, Rishtey Cineplex, and were also shown on the OTT platform, Voot, and Jio TV.

But that is less important compared to Viacom18 securing the rights of the La Liga and Serie A in India. Earlier, La Liga was streamed on Facebook, but the social media giant refused to renew the contract facing losses. As a result, the Spanish football league’s rights were won by Viacom18.

The Spanish top flight has also seen a major growth in its viewership in India since the Viacom18 owned MTV had started broadcasting the matches of La Liga in the country.

Adding to that, the broadcasting company also secured the media rights of the French top flight, Ligue 1, and has been telecasting the matches on VH1. Viacom18 has also attained the broadcasting rights of Serie A for three years and also has the rights of the Carabao Cup sharing with Reliance Jio.

A major announcement came earlier this month as Viacom18 penned down a partnership with NBA regarding the broadcasting rights. Basketball fans in India can tune in to watch the NBA on VH1 and MTV. On the OTT platforms, it can be viewed on Voot, and Jio TV.

The Mukesh Ambani-backed broadcasting group is reportedly planning to bid for the media rights of the Indian Premier League. BCCI will be releasing the media rights tender early next year. Star India currently owns the media rights for the marquee Indian domestic league. The broadcasting channel paid INR 16,347.5 crore to own the media rights for five years from 2018 to 2022.

Viacom18 reportedly paid a whopping amount of Rs 450 crore to secure the media rights of the FIFA World Cup 2022 after beating Sony Network and Star Network. The football World Cup is going to bring some fruitful opportunities to the broadcasting group considering the fan following of the tournament in India.

If we read about all these deals we can point out two things from it, first, Viacom18 has been doing some serious business related to sports broadcasting. The second thing, which is quite ignored is that despite having the media rights of some of the major football leagues, it doesn’t telecast the matches on a particular sports channel, as they currently broadcast matches through their movie or music channels.

With the acquisition of the media rights of some of the popular sports leagues, Viacom18 will need a sports channel to maintain the sports content under one umbrella. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) also permitted TV channel licenses to Viacom18 earlier this year.

Speaking about the hiring and acquisitions, Nikhil Vyas, Co-Founder & CEO, ITW Mediaworx, said, “Viacom’s entry in sports in a big way is almost a known fact now, we have seen that the network has been hiring aggressively from the competition networks to fill the open positions from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy. Rights acquisitions have been aggressive too, from FIFA to La liga, Ligue 1 and now NBA, network has been bidding for almost everything thats opening up. While all of the current content is being aired on their premium non sports channels such as VH1 and MTV, that seems like a short term goal to monetise what they own now, long term goal would definitely be to launch their sports bouquet of channels in the early next year and build up the distribution strength by the end of the year, especially with Qatar FIFA World Cup.”

Vyas added, “Larger play will be to setup the distribution before the IPL 2023, so that the network is in the position to monetise the marquee event if they manage to secure the rights in the highly anticipated IPL media rights auctions. Beyond IPL, ICC Media rights are also expected to come up soon, its unlikely that the same network will cough up billions of dollars to own both the IPL and ICC events. Lastly, i feel entry of the third sports network will certainly help the cricket boards and overall sports ecosystem, more bidders means more competition hence higher earnings for the boards. Decisions taken by the sports networks in next three months will impact the way sports media landscape pans out in next five years.”

The hiring of experienced professionals from the industry:

With the broadcasting group reportedly planning to launch the sports channel, it needs professionals to handle the entity and see to its growth. While the work is in progress, Viacom18 has roped in some veterans from the industry to handle the sports broadcasting venture.

In the past two months, Viacom18 has made some interesting hirings relating to its sports broadcasting endeavour. Amit Kumar Sinha has been assigned the post of Vice President & Head of Pricing & Revenue Strategy at the company. Before joining Viacom18, Amit Kumar Sinha had worked in some major companies like SonyLIV, Star India, Zee TV, etc. With over 15 years of experience, he carries a great mixture of business tactics, marketing & research for various programs and events.

Mallika Petkar also joined Viacom18 recently as Senior Vice President – Strategy, Sports. She has been in the industry for two decades, Petkar worked with some big companies like Star India and Disney+Hotstar. At Star India, she initially worked in business development and later was promoted to lead the channel’s product and revenue strategy. At Disney+Hotstar she joined as the Vice President, she worked on the customer strategy and integrated network sales.

A couple of weeks back, the broadcasting group appointed Siddharth Sharma as their new Executive Vice President – Sports. Before Viacom18, he worked at the Walt Disney-owned Star Sports, before that he gained experience at ABP and Zee network.

In September, Viacom18 had signed Anil Jayaraj as the CEO of Sports, where he would be handling the media and entertainment network and will look over the sports properties of the organisation for broadcasting and monetization rights.

With the right acquisitions and with well-equipped people in their team, Viacom18’s quest for a sports channel seems inevitable.

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