How this political reporter successfully launched a sports OTT business: the story of Kanthi Suresh and PowerSportz
You never know when and where the opportunity to become an entrepreneur comes calling. In 2008, Kanthi Suresh was a political reporter with Doordarshan when the sports reporter on duty dropped out. She was then picked to cover the Olympics in China.
Moving from the political beat to sports did not take much time, and Kanthi soon realised that the business of sport was where she could put her new-found talent to good use.
Ten years later, when OTT platforms like Hotstar and Sony Live realised that leveraging sport made good business sense, Kanthi thought she could also translate her sports acumen into a solid business idea. And thus, Power Sportz came into being as a channel exclusive to OTT platforms.
The channel was launched in May 2018 and began to broadcast different sporting events - not just cricket - on its app. Power Sportz was launched on IoS and Android platforms.
Kanthi explains the idea behind the venture. “The idea behind Power Sportz was to look at sports as a subject to be discussed and debated upon, rather than just looking at it from an amusement and entertainment angle, as done in India all these years.”
The early mover advantage
Therein lies the difference Power Sportz brings to a market flooded with OTT platforms. It aims to provide a platform for all stakeholders in the sporting ecosystem, be it athletes, coaches, support staff, or management. “We call ourselves the voice of sports,” she says.
Thanks to the “early mover advantage”, her channel now claims to have close to two million views every day.
“It was an important step to go digital because there are Indians who want to watch different games and not just cricket. Our biggest target audience is women,” she adds.
It’s interesting to note that Kanthi started her career as HR Manager at Reliance and Max Healthcare before becoming a TV journalist. But it was at Beijing Olympics that she found her true calling: sports.
Ten years after she ventured into sports, in 2018, Kanthi convinced a clutch of investors (undisclosed) to back her and launched Power Sportz with a Rs 7 crore investment. She used the funds to build a CMS and bring content on to the platform.
The company today has inventory (sponsored and unsponsored) from all sports broadcasting channels. Their business model is akin to any TV channel at half the cost, and has a clear measurable viewership as measured by Google analytics.
“We provide free commercial time, sponsorship, branded content, and on-air integrations,” says Kanthi, adding that the company was experimenting with several business models, including advertising.
“We have to consolidate as we have grown too fast, too early. At the same time, we have to build new content and provide innovative and economical solutions to corporates keen on identifying their brands with sports. Not too many options are available in the country for them to support sport,” she says.
Game plan for the future
The company has a three-year break-even plan for the business. However, the founder does not reveal the total inventory sourced from various global broadcasters.
“We are India’s first sports news channel that runs live on all OTT platforms. From a B2B angle, we provide solutions to corporates that want to build their brand by identifying with a sport. From a B2C angle, we provide free sports infotainment for the masses in the comfort of their devices. We showcase multi-sports covering mega events of tennis, golf, football, motorsports, cycling etc. We are a one-stop shop for all sports enthusiasts,” she says.
The OTT market, according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG), is all set to touch US$5 billion by 2023. BCG says American platforms are investing more in India than Indian platforms. All OTT companies are betting on affluence, adoption among female and older demographics, and rural data penetration. The growth of Jio has enabled Indian users to experience OTT platforms like YouTube at the lowest data cost. One can pay Rs 1,699 valid for one year to use 547.5 GB.
Sport-focussed OTT platforms are just taking off in India and Power Sportz is at the right place, at the right time. If it continues to be consistent with content and engagement, it is surely in for the long run.