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Net benefit | WC a bonanza for portals

The big-ticket event made enormous business sense for Indian websites.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2006 21:18 IST

The World Cup soccer extravaganza, along with the stunning sight of an insulted Zinedine Zidane head-butting a boorish Marco Materazzi in the final, is already buried in history and etched in nostalgia.

But the big-ticket event made enormous business sense for the Internet and mobile content providers in India with advertisers making a beeline for these new forms of media.

All major portals and mobile content providers in India had specially redesigned their content for the World Cup to feed the demand of soccer enthusiasts. Mobile downloads of wallpapers of some of the football stars and online and mobile games attracted the maximum number of fans to the Internet.

Says Dr Subho Ray, President, The Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), "The World Cup bonanza shows that the Internet has emerged not only as an alternative but as a parallel medium to a large section of the people in India."

With the advent of broadband as well as mobile phones, it is possible to keep track of the matches even while being on the move. Web sites and mobile content companies are gradually realising the potential of both these mediums and hence are increasingly beefing up their content for such mega events.

"In the process, they have been successfully attracting more and more users and advertisers," he points out.

HT Media, for example, recorded a five to seven per cent increase in the online revenues, says Salil Kumar, GM, Business Development, HindustanTimes.com. (Check HT World Cup Special)

According to him, the number of hits during the prime time period (2130 hrs) reached an average of 15 lakh, post-midnight (1230 hrs) averaged 20 lakh and evening (1830 hrs) reached an average of five lakh.

In terms of city-wise access to World Cup related activities, Delhi and Chandigarh topped with 40 per cent, followed by Mumbai 30 per cent, Bangalore 10 per cent and Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad five per cent each.

Sify's Vice-President Surya Mantha said, "Thousands of clips of World Cup football related content were viewed on Sify's broadband portal Sify Max in the first two weeks of the tournament".

The most watched clip related to the Brazil vs France match on July 2 and was viewed 25,000 times!

With soccer fans around the world treating the sport as religion and its players as demigods, portals created an offbeat category on web sites, providing their professional and personal details.

In the offbeat category, Mantha said, "A video featuring the wives/girlfriends of star football players was the most popular".

Online advertisers took full advantage of the World Cup fever. MSN India had advertisers such as Lenovo and LIC Housing, informed R Rajnish, Sales and Marketing Head, MSN India. “Netizens, mostly in the age group of 18-35 years, visited their web site for World Cup related activities.’’

"For rediff.com", says Arvindra Kanwal, Chief Media Revenue Officer, "increased page views resulted in more ad inventory which, in turn, resulted in better revenue".

He added: "Football as a platform brought a set of advertisers like Ranbaxy, Maruti Swift, Gillette, Microsoft, Apollo Tyres and others.’’

Airtel, on the other hand, was one of the sponsors of the FIFA World Cup on ESPN, which had the exclusive telecast rights. It provided soccer fans exclusive World Cup updates sourced from ESPN, like match previews and analyses, short match clips, live alerts and news, exclusive ring tones and wallpapers of soccer icons.

It also offered the official song of the FIFA World Cup as a Hello Tune and ring tone for all Airtel customers.

Says Sanjay Kapoor, Joint President (Mobility), Bharti Airtel Ltd., "Football and World cup related contents were among the most popular downloads on Airtel Live!, the multi-access entertainment portal of Airtel.’’

As per data available for 30 days of the soccer event, the official FIFA World Cup game is among the four most downloaded games.

"In this visually engaging game, gamers experienced the 12 official stadia as they took one of their 32 national teams from qualification to glory. 'Time of Our Lives', ballad by Il Divo & Toni Braxton, which was the official FIFA World Cup song, has been among the top 10 downloaded songs in the non-film category on Airtel.