The IPL cricket tournament is currently so much in our face, that I cannot but write this piece about it and – my favourite topic – the Internet.
This post has an ambitious agenda !
A. It informs us about the recent growth of You Tube
B. Suggests why online video / You Tube is important for India’s Internet and for Google
C. Suggests why Google chose the IPL event to push You Tube (as You Tube IPL channel)
D. Hypothesizes on what business objectives Google probably has (for You Tube IPL channel)
E. Identifies the audience segments who will watch it (You Tube IPL)
F. Reports on the viewership achieved in the tournament’s first week (by You Tube IPL)
G. Informs what value-adds are available on the channel per se
A. Google & Yahoo are no longer the only big properties on the Internet
What we do on the Internet changes with time. From online directories, email, chat and news – in the early days – we moved on to search, instant messengers, blogs and jobs.
Social networking and online video will be the BIG Internet applications of the future. I said this two years ago – in a previous post on this blog.
Indeed, usage is growing fast – for both Facebook and YouTube. This could be happening at the expense of the traditional portals (Yahoo, MSN). Facebook is now the number 1 site in terms of global minutes of use. And You Tube is number 2. Take a look :
Social networking is much talked about e.g. you read of Facebook everyday.
What of video?
Not as much is heard of online video here in India. The world’s 4th largest Internet market (60 million users) has been traditionally considered bandwidth-starved and is ‘not known as an online video market’. Even though, 19 million of these users are on You Tube (Source : Google India). Perhaps, the usage of video is low.
(By the way, in this discussion, we are going to take You Tube as a proxy for online video. There are many other sites that stream video but You Tube is way ahead. Comscore reported that in the U.S., You Tube had a 39.5% share of the videos watched in Jan 2010 and the next nearest competitor Hulu had a 2.8% share. One suspects that in a less evolved video market such as India, You Tube’s share of videos watched is still higher).
Now, in terms of unique visitors, You Tube probably has a half billion unique visitors globally (It had 466 million of 1100 global Internet users in Oct ’09 – and grew 21 million users in two months: Comscore).
B. Why is online video important for Internet in India ?
Now, I would argue that online video / You Tube is more important to India than it is to the world. Here’s why.
In previous posts on this blog, we saw how the Indian Internet market suffers from the lack of development of local languages. Internet content is overwhelmingly in English, and the keyboard-OS ecosystem hasn’t evolved either. My experience at Rediff.com, where I interacted with Internet users all over, showed me that many Indians who claim to know English, actually have a poor command over the language, and lack grammatical and comprehension skills.
In other words, video could be a killer app for the Indian Internet market.
Separately, there is optimism ( ‘The Mobile Internet Report, 2009‘ by Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley) that video will grow fast on the mobile as well.
C. Why did Google choose IPL to push You Tube (youtube.com/ipl) ?
The challenge in promoting You Tube, of course, is that we get enough of video already: television is booming in India, with hundreds of channels.
So if video is going to be the next killer app on the Internet, it better have a great launch pad.
And what better than a cricket tournament? A tournament that lasts 60 days, over 43 matches and is, to boot, an annual event ?
The latest TAM (Television Audience Monitor, the guys who track the TV audience) readings, which were out yesterday, show that during the first three matches of IPL3 (on March 12th / 13th) an average of 37.1 million people watched on television. This was up from last season’s (IPL2) 29.4 million. Projected over the entire tournament, this translates to about an audience of 2 billion (=37 x 60).
Now, let’s say that no sports or entertainment event in India can provide as high a viewership (audience in millions) as the IPL tournament.
So, if Google (the company which runs You Tube) wants to grow the online video market in India, it had better try grab a share of the above TV eyeballs.
Cricket matches have been streamed online before, for several years now. We have had CricInfo and WillowTV, among others. Here the model all along was to charge subscription fees.
What’s also different about You Tube / Google is that this videocasting is free. And, therefore, ad-supported.
Now, no one will argue that Google alone can execute this. The technical challenges of streaming to large numbers of concurrent users are not easy to meet.
D. What are Google’s possible business objectives in streaming IPL on You Tube?
Google India’s possible objectives are three or four :
1. Build higher saliency for You Tube as a brand in India
This IPL season is being well marketed. It’s also the most authentic multiple-platform, live event one has yet seen in India: there’s live coverage on TV, Internet, theatres (673 numbers) and the mobile (m.iplt20.com). Internet (You Tube) is accordingly getting it’s due share of publicity / coverage.
2. Test / learn the technical ability to stream such a large event.
As per the company, this is the largest ever live streaming event worldwide on YouTube.
I mean, if they get it right, who knows, it could next be the London Olympics on You Tube.
3. Develop a new advertising market.
Google’s running a one-legged revenue race (search) right now. And You Tube is known to be a big financial drain for the company. With an estimated 500 million unique visitors and growth rates in minutes of 70% Y/Y (Comscore data), this burden can only increase.
It’s thus time to make a big push for big-ticket advertisers – in India and elsewhere.
Earlier press reports talked of You Tube gunning for 10 sponsors for this channel. Rs. 40 million was the price for the presenting sponsor and Rs. 15 million for associate sponsors, and a revenue of Rs. 200 million was anticipated. It’s structured as a revenue share between IPL and Google.
4. Gather data/analytics on user behavior for possible later use.
An interesting dynamic : viewing time. Currently, an individual You Tube video is, on an average, just under 3 minutes (Comscore data). Will people sit in front of a PC and watch a three hour match? How many breaks will they take, etc.?
E. Reality check: Is anyone at all going to watch IPL on You Tube!
When it comes to cricket, there are a few niches that online video can better serve than TV.
1. People at work, in offices, possibly working the second shift, say in call centres.
2. Indians living overseas.
In the U.S., home to about 2 million Indians, for example, the IPL is being telecast by satellite TV company DirecTV. It’s charging $99 to watch the tournament (+ one needs to buy the DirecTV receiver, typically $200+).
Now, IPL coverage on You Tube is available in the U.S. as a delayed feed, that starts 15 minutes after the game is over. This delay is presumably not to conflict with the paid DirecTV. Since the matches are being played at a time when it’s working hours in the U.S., however, many youngsters won’t watch TV; the delayed IPL videocast should do fine.
3. Cricket lovers from other countries such as Bangladesh or a West Indies. Not all countries have live telecast (see this list on Wikipedia).
4. A handful of cricket lovers who want to avail of the value-adds features available on YouTube.
In other words, this IPL project is a big pilot for You Tube.
F. How’s the viewership trend for youtube.com/ipl for the first week?
The IPL channel on You Tube was already, within two days (March 14th) of the start of the tournament (March 12th), the most subscribed channel of You Tube India. It overtook the NPTELHRD channel, that carries videos of lectures by IIT Professors.
Channels are branded (sponsored) properties on You Tube. You Tube India has just 100 of them. As you can see, cricket / IPL viewership is ahead of entertainment (Rajshri, Eros, Zoom, Yash Raj Films, Zee and NDTV), religion (Rajshri, Swami Nityananda’s Life Bliss) and education (NPTELHRD, glad2teach).
And in terms of channel views, youtube.com/ipl is averaging 1-2 million channel views daily. Maybe we’ll get 60 million views for the tournament total. My own guess is they have a maximum of some 300,000-400,000 users (assuming 4 channel views per user per day) . Or, less than 1% of the TV audience that is being got. Truly a niche audience.
Likewise, the IPL Fan Page on Facebook is rocking; it has 275,000 odd fans as of now. To put this in perspective, let’s remember that Zoozoos is probably India’s largest Facebook Fan Page with 400,000 odd fans. This puts the IPL Facebook page in the top league.
G. I watch IPL on TV. What value-adds can I get from the You Tube coverage?
The IPL 3 matches are being streamed with a 5 minute delay. In addition, there are many extras: ‘official’ videos of match highlights, presentation ceremony and ‘great shots’; a photo gallery and two alternate camera feeds to choose from. There is also a smart integration with Twitter and Orkut.
Then there is the IPL website itself which has extras like ‘Hawk eye’, Pulse, Predictor, a live scorecard and merchandise available for sale online. Then there is, supposedly, mobile video also at m.iplt20.com.One can also buy tickets online to the live matches.
And, oh yes, there have been ‘technical difficulties’ galore, many viewers of youtube.com/ipl have failed many a time to get a good coverage of the match.
This project is best seen as a You Tube strategy that Google will want to get right over time. Let’s see how things pans out.