Sony Pictures Networks India bags exclusive rights to broadcast Asia's biggest Multi-Sporting Event, 2022 Asian Games - Business Guardian
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Sony Pictures Networks India bags exclusive rights to broadcast Asia’s biggest Multi-Sporting Event, 2022 Asian Games



Sony Pictures Networks India, (SPN), has acquired the exclusive media rights for the 2022 Asian Games from November 2021 to September 2023.

This association will give SPN exclusive rights to broadcast the 19th edition of the Asian Games on its sports channels across India and the subcontinent including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Maldives and will also be available on their premium OTT platform, SonyLIV.
The deal spanning from November 2021 to September 2023 will also give Sony Sports Network exclusive rights to produce clips and highlights throughout the tenure.

The 2022 Asian Games will take place from September 10 to September 25, 2022, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China and five co-host cities. The multi-sporting event will feature 40 sports with a total of 61 disciplines, including Olympic sports like swimming, archery, athletics, badminton, equestrian, fencing, football, hockey, judo, kabaddi and much more.

E-sports and breakdancing will debut in the 2022 Asian Games as full medal sports after being approved by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) this year, while Cricket will be back at Asian Games in T20 format to raise the excitement of the viewers. For the first time ever, more than 300 athletes from Oceania countries have been given the chance to compete at this year’s 19th edition of the Asian Games. The Oceania athletes, including those from Australia and New Zealand, will be allowed to compete in five sports: triathlon, athletics, wushu, roller skating and weightlifting.

India is a member of the South Asian Zone of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and one of the only seven countries that have competed in all the editions of the Asian Games. India has won at least one gold medal at every Asian Games and always ranked within the top 10 nations of the medal table, except in the 1990 edition. So far, India has won 139 gold, 178 silver and 299 bronze medals at the Asian Games and will look to significantly increase the medal tally this year.

Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head – Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India:

“The 2022 Asian Games is expected to be one of the biggest multi-sporting events in Asia this year and we are pleased to bag the exclusive media rights for India and the subcontinent. The outstanding performance of Indian athletes at Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 has laid a strong foundation and we are happy to bring to our viewers another marquee multi-sporting event that will see participation from the top Indian athletes. With the addition of E-sports and breakdancing, we expect a bigger audience and the introduction of the T20 Cricket format at the Asian Games will undoubtedly add to the excitement of the nation.”

Chen Weiqiang, Deputy Secretary General of HAPGOC and Vice Mayor of Hangzhou city:

“The 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022 Organising Committee (HAGOC) would like to congratulate the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on the signing of an agreement with Sony Pictures Networks India for broadcasting rights to the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022, in India. This is the first signing of a rights-holding broadcaster for Hangzhou 2022 and marks the beginning of a new phase in the distributing of such rights for the event.”

This story is provided by BusinessWire India. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/BusinessWire India)


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Record-breaking IPL 2024: Star sports draws 510 mm viewers in 51 matches



Disney Star, the broadcaster for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, announced a record viewership of 510 million for the initial 51 matches. As the Tata IPL 2024 approaches its finals with 17 matches remaining, cricket fever has soared to unprecedented levels, establishing new records both in the sport and in terms of viewership. According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), Star Sports, the broadcasting channel for IPL 2024 under Disney Star, has attracted 510 million viewers during the first 51 matches. This figure represents a 5% increase compared to the previous high recorded in 2019 for the same number of matches.

Additionally, the broadcaster has experienced an 18 per cent increase from the previous edition in terms of total watch time, with viewers spending a staggering 356,000 million minutes. Disney Star also witnessed a 19 per cent increase in TVR (television viewership rating) for the first 51 matches, compared to the 2021 season.

As the conclusion of the IPL 2024 league stage approaches, the competition for playoff berths is intensifying, with eight teams competing for the last four positions. Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings are not in contention for the IPL 2024 playoffs race. Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are striving for the top two spots, while Delhi Capitals and Lucknow Super Giants are locked in a battle for fourth place with 12 points each.

In a release, Disney Star said, “The Tata IPL 2024 season is reaching its fever pitch, and Star Sports is capturing the electrifying race to the playoffs with unique surround programming. The battle for the top four positions is set to go down to the wire, promising thrilling and exceptionally close matchups, making it one of the most compelling races in IPL history.

Disney Star is airing the Tata IPL 2024 across 14 channels in 10 languages. The marketing campaign for the 17th edition of the tournament, titled “Ajab IPL ke gazab rang,” revolves around the idea that a fan’s allegiance shines through during their team’s journey in the tournament, with each IPL moment resonating uniquely with diverse viewers.

This year, Star Sports has collaborated with Tata Play and Airtel Digital TV to provide IPL matches in 4K resolution and introduced value-added services.

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Hindi film industry sees 6% cinema growth in 2023



In 2023, India witnessed a modest increase in the number of movie screens, with Hindi-speaking regions leading the growth, followed by the east and south, as per the latest FICCI-EY media and entertainment industry report. Despite the pandemic-induced challenges, the country’s cinema landscape showed signs of recovery, with the total number of screens surpassing 2018 levels. However, the expansion remains heavily skewed towards certain regions like Delhi NCR, Maharashtra, and Bengaluru, leaving states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha relatively underserved. High real estate costs and audience disconnect with contemporary movie themes contribute to this imbalance. Multiplex chains are eyeing expansion into untapped markets, awaiting infrastructure development for further growth.

India’s cinema industry, renowned globally for its diverse and vibrant film culture, has faced various challenges in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a severe blow to the sector, forcing many theatres to shut down temporarily or permanently. The subsequent restrictions on movie releases and audience capacity further exacerbated the situation. Despite these setbacks, the gradual reopening of theatres and the resurgence of audience interest in cinematic experiences have injected a sense of optimism into the industry.

The increase in the number of movie screens in 2023, albeit modest, reflects a positive trend amidst adversity. The growth, particularly in Hindi-speaking markets, underscores the resilience of regional film industries and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The rise in screens in the east and south also signifies the importance of these regions in the overall cinematic landscape of the country.

However, the disparity in screen distribution across different states remains a notable challenge. While states like Maharashtra and Karnataka boast a significant number of screens, others such as Bihar and Jharkhand lag behind. This imbalance not only limits access to cinema for residents of these regions but also hampers the growth potential of the industry as a whole.

One of the primary factors contributing to this imbalance is the high cost of real estate, especially in urban centers where multiplexes are typically located. The exorbitant prices make it economically unviable for cinema operators to establish new theatres in smaller towns and cities. As a result, the expansion of multiplex chains has been concentrated in areas with favorable infrastructure and consumer demand, leaving other regions underserved.

Moreover, audience preferences and viewing habits vary significantly across different parts of the country. While metropolitan cities may have a diverse audience that appreciates a wide range of film genres and languages, smaller towns and rural areas often have more limited tastes. This disparity in preferences influences the type of content that filmmakers produce and the distribution strategies adopted by distributors and exhibitors.

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on catering to the preferences of urban audiences, particularly those in metropolitan areas. Films targeting the multiplex-going demographic, featuring niche genres and unconventional storytelling, have gained prominence. However, this trend has also led to a neglect of audiences in non-metro regions, where traditional, mainstream cinema continues to dominate. To address these challenges and promote inclusive growth, industry stakeholders must adopt a holistic approach that takes into account the diverse needs and aspirations of audiences across the country.

This includes exploring innovative business models, leveraging technology to enhance the cinematic experience, and investing in infrastructure development in underserved regions. Additionally, government intervention and policy support are crucial in facilitating the expansion of the cinema industry and ensuring equitable access to entertainment opportunities. Incentives for multiplex operators to establish theatres in non-metro areas, subsidies for the development of cinema infrastructure, and initiatives to promote regional cinema can help bridge the gap and foster a more inclusive film ecosystem.

Ultimately, the growth of India’s cinema industry hinges on its ability to embrace diversity, adapt to evolving consumer preferences, and overcome geographical and socioeconomic barriers. By addressing these challenges collectively and collaboratively, stakeholders can unlock the full potential of the country’s rich cinematic heritage and drive sustainable growth for the future.

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Netflix gains 9.33M users with originals, password sharing measures



Netflix Inc. experienced its strongest beginning to a year since 2020, surpassing expectations by attracting a higher number of new subscribers. This was attributed to a robust lineup of original content and measures taken to address password sharing. According to a statement released on Thursday, the company added 9.33 million customers in the first quarter of 2024, nearly doubling the average analysts’ estimate of 4.84 million. Netflix’s customer growth spanned across global markets, with notable strength observed in the US and Canada.

These new subscriptions contributed to the company exceeding forecasts for both revenue and earnings. Despite the growth, Netflix shares were down 4.6 percent to $582.70 at 6:03 p.m. New York time. They were up 25 percent this year through the close of regular trading Thursday.

Expectations for Netflix’s first quarter had soared in recent days, as one analyst after another published rosy forecasts. In its letter to investors Thursday, the company said subscriber gains will be lower this period, while revenue will increase 16 percent. Netflix also said it will stop reporting paid quarterly membership and revenue per subscriber, starting with the first quarter of 2025. Those metrics have long been the primary way Wall Street evaluated the company’s performance, but Netflix has tried to shift the focus to traditional measures like sales and profit. Management will continue to report major subscriber milestones.

“The movement to no longer disclose quarterly subscriptions from next year will not go down well,” Paolo Pescatore, founder and analyst at PP Foresight, said in an email. “More so given the subscriber growth that the streaming king has seen over the last year.”

Netflix has rebounded from a slowdown in 2021 and 2022 to grow at its fastest rate since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. That is due in large part to its crackdown on people who were using someone else’s account. The company estimated more than 100 million people were using an account for which they didn’t pay. While executives at Netflix feared a backlash from customers, the company has been able to convince millions of moochers to pay for access.

Those new customers have had plenty to watch. Netflix has delivered a new hit every couple of weeks so far this year, including limited series such as “Fool Me Once” and “Griselda,” the dramas “The Gentleman” and “3 Body Problem,” and the reality show “Love Is Blind.” The streaming service accounts for about 8 percent of TV viewing in the US — and is a leading TV network in most of the world’s major media markets.

“With more than two people per household on average, we have an audience of over half a billion people,” the company said in its letter. “No entertainment company has ever programmed at this scale and with this ambition before.” The recent growth has lifted Netflix shares back toward record highs, giving the company a market value of more than $260 billion. It set an all-time closing high of $691.69 in November 2021.

Some analysts worry that Netflix is once again trading at a valuation that far exceeds the fundamentals of the business. The company delivered sales of $9.33 billion, rising 15 percent and beating estimates of $9.26 billion. Net income grew to $2.33 billion, or $5.28 a share, also above projections. Those figures are below companies with smaller market values, the boost from the crackdown on account sharing is temporary, and Netflix executives have been reluctant to put a firm timetable on when that growth would stop.

Yet even skeptical analysts have been impressed with the company’s recent performance, lifting their price targets for investors. To sustain its growth going forward, Netflix has also introduced a cheaper, advertising-supported version of its service targeting cost-conscious customers. It’s also begun to invest in live programming, including stand-up specials, wrestling, and an upcoming boxing match.

About 40 percent of Netflix’s new customers are selecting the advertising option in markets where it’s available, the company said.

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Sony and Apollo explore joint bid for paramount Global



Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management are discussing making a joint bid for Paramount Global, according to a person familiar with the matter. The companies have yet to approach Paramount, which is in exclusive deal talks with Skydance Media, an independent studio led by David Ellison, though some investors have urged Paramount to explore other options. The competing bid, which is still being structured, would offer cash for all outstanding Paramount shares and take the company private, the source said.

Sony would hold a majority stake in the joint venture and operate the media company, and its library of films, including such classics as “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Indiana Jones,” and television characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, according to the source. Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Tony Vinciquerra, a veteran media executive with deep experience in film and television, would likely run the studio and take advantage of Sony’s marketing and distribution.

Apollo would likely assume control of the CBS broadcast network and its local television stations because of restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast stations, the source said. Sony’s parent corporation is headquartered in Tokyo. The Sony-Apollo discussions. Paramount and Sony declined comment. Apollo could not be reached for comment.

The private equity firm previously made a $26 billion offer to buy Paramount Global, whose enterprise value at the end of 2023 was about $22.5 billion. A special committee of Paramount’s board elected to continue with its advanced deal talks with Skydance, rather than chase a deal “that might not actually come to fruition,” said two people with knowledge of the board’s action. The board committee is evaluating the possible acquisition of the smaller independent studio in a stock deal worth $4 billion to $5 billion. Skydance is negotiating separately to acquire National Amusements, a company that holds the Redstone family’s controlling interest in Paramount, according to a person familiar with the deal terms. That transaction is contingent upon a Skydance-Paramount merger.

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New movies, shows aim to boost promotion through social media snippets



Film producers and streaming platforms are adopting a new strategy to lure viewers to watch their titles at a time when attention spans have shrunk amid a surfeit of entertainment options. They are increasingly releasing short clips or snippets, usually lasting between five and 10 minutes, on social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, giving away major dialogues, scenes, and songs of the titles to get the viewers hooked. From introducing pivotal characters to revealing major story arcs, these are circulated across channels on both the studio or platform’s own accounts as well as via collaborations with content creators and entertainment portals.

While some industry experts say this is one way to build volume and generate buzz around a film or a show through means other than just the trailer and traditional marketing techniques, others say the strategy can backfire with significant chunks of the film or the show available on social media for free, diluting the need to sign up and pay to watch it either in theaters or on an OTT platform. Illegal leakages from the film or show via pirated means can add to the crisis.

“Attention span of audiences on the internet is low and it takes a lot more to get someone hooked to your content, than it did before. Especially for platforms or producers that do not boast of huge budgets, more clips increase the chances of the content going viral organically, since merit is no longer the only criterion for content to catch on to viewers’ algorithms,” said Girish Dwibhashyam, vice-president, strategy and business head at DocuBay, a documentary-streaming platform. Dwibhashyam conceded that releasing multiple clips does take away a part of the story’s reveal, but was quick to add that the bigger priority is to get noticed.

Social media is replete with clips from movies and shows, often without spoiler warnings, Avinash Mudaliar, CEO, OTTPlay, the recommendation and content discovery platform for streaming services launched by HT Media Labs (part of the same organization as Mint) said. These can be of three kinds: promotional videos including trailers of movies and shows, celebrity interviews, and songs posted by the production house or OTT platforms where content is often scripted and reviewed and thus, rarely divulge the plot or storyline of the movie. Then there is influencer-led content including clips on social media in reaction to popular or newly-released movies and shows, which do contain snippets of storylines (or more), but the majority are accompanied by spoiler warnings, he said.

But there are also illicit or bootlegged clips that are often recorded in theaters via mobile phones or other devices, distributed online via social media and websites where people can quickly download content, often revealing entire storylines, including plot twists and endings. “Of these, the first category alone is controllable. Influencer-led content, while controllable to some extent, is not in collaboration with the production company,” Mudaliar added. “While most influencers are careful enough to include spoiler warnings, or restrict divulgence of the storyline, leaks around certain plot lines do happen. In most cases, this ends positively, contributing to the promotional buzz and piquing interest.”

However, the last category, of pirated content, is completely uncontrollable, and highly detrimental to paid viewing options, impacting both production companies and OTT platforms. Rajat Agrawal, director and content syndication head, Ultra Media & Entertainment Group, said in the case of old films, releasing snippets on social media channels can be a conscious decision or even a marketing strategy to lure the viewer to watch the complete film on the OTT platform or YouTube channel where the title is being streamed. “Though, if the film is newly released and is running in theaters, clips secretly shot in cinemas and uploaded to these platforms have the potential of giving away some important scenes and (part of the) narrative,” Agrawal said.

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Indian fintech funding plunges 63% in 2023, reaching $2 billion



In 2023, financial technology (fintech) startups in India witnessed a notable decline in funding, amassing a total of $2 billion—a stark 63% drop from the previous year’s $5.4 billion, according to data sourced from Tracxn and reported by Financial Express (FE). This dip reflects a broader trend of reduced funding across various sectors, signifying a significant slowdown in the fintech domain compared to its funding zenith in 2021 when it attracted a massive $8.4 billion.

Despite the funding downturn, the Indian fintech sector maintained its global standing as the third-highest funded in 2023. Additionally, the sector’s substantial growth has positioned it as the fourth-highest funded startup ecosystem globally within the fintech arena, based on cumulative funding till date.

The decrease in funding rounds for fintech firms in 2023 was conspicuous, witnessing a substantial drop from 504 rounds in 2022 to 144 rounds last year. Among the standout segments within fintech, alternative lending, payments, and banking tech emerged as the top performers. Alternative lending firms secured the most considerable funding within the sector, totalling $835 million in 2023.

The decline in funding rounds was more pronounced in early-stage and seed-stage financing than in late-stage rounds. Late-stage rounds saw a 56% decrease to $1.4 billion, while early-stage rounds plummeted by 73% to $489 million, and seed-stage rounds experienced a 69% decline to $145 million.

Specifically, payment startups amassed $753 million in funding in 2023, while those focused on banking tech services raised $331 million from investors, both segments witnessing a significant downturn compared to the previous year’s figures.

Amidst these funding shifts, only five funding rounds exceeding $100 million were recorded among fintechs in 2023. Notable recipients included PhonePe, Perfios, InsuranceDekho, KreditBee, and Mintifi. PhonePe led the way with the largest round of $623 million, followed by Perfios at $229 million and InsuranceDekho at $150 million.

InCred emerged as the sole unicorn in the Indian fintech space in 2023, a notable decline compared to five unicorns in 2022. Additionally, two fintechs—Zaggle and Veefin—launched their initial public offerings (IPOs) during the year, a decrease from five such IPOs in the preceding year.

The funding landscape across Indian cities showcased Bengaluru leading in fintech funding, followed by Mumbai and Jaipur. Peak XV Partners (formerly Sequoia Capital India), Y Combinator, and LetsVenture were among the top investors supporting fintech growth in the country.

The shift in funding dynamics within India’s fintech sector reflects broader market trends and investor sentiment. The decline in funding rounds, particularly in early-stage and seed-stage financing, indicates a cautious approach among investors, possibly driven by market uncertainties or a recalibration of risk appetites. However, despite the funding contraction, certain segments like alternative lending, payments, and banking tech managed to sustain investor interest, showcasing resilience amidst the challenging investment landscape.

The reduced number of unicorns and IPO launches in the Indian fintech space in 2023 signifies a more discerning approach by investors, emphasizing quality over quantity. This trend aligns with a maturing ecosystem where investor scrutiny and a focus on sustainable growth become increasingly paramount. While the funding landscape witnessed a contraction, the continued interest of notable investors like Peak XV Partners (formerly Sequoia Capital India) and Y Combinator underscores enduring confidence in the long-term potential of India’s fintech market.

Bengaluru’s prominence as the leader in fintech funding underscores the city’s robust ecosystem and supportive infrastructure for burgeoning startups. The city’s continued appeal to investors and innovators alike reflects its conducive environment for fostering fintech innovation. Mumbai and Jaipur also emerge as notable players in the fintech funding arena, contributing to India’s diverse and evolving fintech landscape, highlighting the growing geographical spread of fintech innovation and investment opportunities across the country.

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