The sports broadcasting landscape in India is set to undergo a significant transformation as Sports18 Network, owned by Viacom18, prepares to launch two new secondary sports channels – Sports18 2 and Sports18 3. This move comes hot on the heels of their historic deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), securing media rights for a whopping Rs 5,963 crore for international and domestic cricket matches over the next five years, starting from September 2023. With the official launch scheduled for November 1, 2023, let’s explore what viewers can expect from the Sports18 Network.
A Brief Overview: Viacom18, a joint venture between Network18 and Paramount Global, introduced the Sports18 Network on April 15, 2022. Initially, it featured two channels, Sports18 1 SD and Sports18 1 HD, which made their mark in the sports broadcasting industry. Subsequently, on April 25, 2022, Sports18 Khel was introduced, albeit exclusively available on DD Free Dish. In addition to acquiring the BCCI cricket rights, which encompass international and domestic matches as well as the Women’s Premier League, the network holds broadcasting rights for prominent sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, ATP Tour Masters 1000, BWF World Championships, MotoGP, Indian Super League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and more.
The Need for Secondary Sports Channels:
The decision to launch secondary sports channels stemmed from the growing demand for live sports telecasts and commentary in regional languages. With sports events being telecasted on channels traditionally associated with music and movies within the Viacom18 network, the need for specialized sports channels became evident. This shift was especially highlighted during the recent ODI series between India and Australia, which was aired on ‘Colors Cineplex Superhits’ to provide Hindi commentary to cricket enthusiasts.
Competition in the Sports Broadcasting Arena:
To effectively compete with rival sports networks like Star Sports Network and Sony Sports Network, Viacom18 needed to expand its portfolio. Both Star Sports and Sony Sports initiated the trend of launching regional sports language channels and gained a significant following. These broadcasters offer dedicated channels for English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu broadcasting. Therefore, the introduction of Sports18 2 and Sports18 3 aims to enable Viacom18 to cater to diverse linguistic preferences in sports commentary and enhance its competitive edge in the industry.
What to Expect from Sports18 2 & Sports18 3:
Sports18 2 will primarily focus on telecasting live sports events in Hindi, catering to the vast Hindi-speaking audience in India. On the other hand, while nothing has been officially confirmed about Sports18 3, it is expected to provide sports events in the dual languages of Tamil and Telugu. Interestingly, both of these channels are initially launching in standard definition (SD). However, given the increasing preference for high-definition (HD) channels, it wouldn’t be surprising if HD versions are introduced before the 5-match T20I series between India and Australia, which is scheduled to begin on November 23, 2023, following the ongoing World Cup.
Distribution and Future Prospects:
The success of Sports18 2 and Sports18 3 will hinge on how Viacom18 effectively distributes them to a wide audience. In the past, there were delays in the launch of Sports18 1 SD and Sports18 1 HD, with most direct-to-home (DTH) operators offering them during the Women’s Premier League. However, the recently acquired BCCI rights have infused confidence into the network. As we move forward, we can anticipate more cricketing action and an array of exciting sports from the Sports18 Network. The days ahead promise fierce competition between Sports18, Star Sports, and Sony Sports Networks, leaving viewers in India spoiled for choice with an abundance of thrilling sports content.
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