Fan Experience

Lancashire seeking further Indian inroads through LancsTV

Images: Lancashire Cricket

Lancashire Cricket is aiming to increase its appeal in India with its LancsTV venture looked upon as a vital piece of the puzzle.

India is widely considered one of, if not the most passionate countries when it comes to cricket, with the phrase, “it’s like a religion”, regularly cropping up.

As a result, many clubs from abroad are eager to get a slice of the pie. But can they really attract attention away from the dominant Indian Premier League (IPL)?

Lancashire has already gained a foothold in the interest of Indian cricket fans, moves that have been years in the making, but is now ready to take an important step forward.

The club is launching a dedicated LancsTV channel in India across JioTV platforms. Lancashire already held a relationship with JioTV, which is one of the largest content aggregators in India, but the new agreement is hoped to further cement Lancashire’s place in the market.

Indian roots

Lancashire Cricket’s connection with India began in 1968 when wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer joined the county. He is considered an Indian cricket legend and now also serves as vice-president of the club.

Since Engineer’s retirement, a further five India internationals have played for Lancashire in the form of Murali Kartik, Dinesh Mongia, V.V.S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, and most recently, Washington Sundar.

Lancashire’s home ground, Emirates Old Trafford, has hosted several Test and limited-overs matches featuring India and notably witnessed batting great Sachin Tendulkar’s maiden Test century against England in August 1990.

Off the pitch, LancsTV is proving to be a worthwhile investment.

The platform was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic as the club tried to ensure fans could watch games online as in-person viewing was prohibited. In the same year, Lancashire live streamed on JioTV, making it the first English domestic side to do so. It makes up a key part of Lancashire’s India strategy that aims to help the club, and its brand, grow on the subcontinent.

Lancashire Cricket has made significant efforts over the years to diversify its income and not have to rely mainly on hosting international cricket, which brings no guarantees. A prime example of this is the hotel that Emirates Old Trafford boasts on site.

This has helped the venue to host multiple events such as concerts and conferences, including TheStadiumBusiness Summit which is set to take place at Emirates Old Trafford again from June 17-19 this year.

Money maker

Commercialising LancsTV’s bespoke platform on JioTV, and bringing in another revenue stream, is considered to be a key challenge for the club.

“This is one of the key things that we are looking at right now,” Lancashire Cricket head of communications, James Price, who plays a core role in the production of LancsTV, told TheStadiumBusiness.

“There are a number of different avenues that we are looking at. In terms of commercialisation, we are looking for a headline commercial partner of LancsTV.

“We are also exploring opportunities around OTT (over-the-top) platforms and how that might look in the future. It is important for us to commercialise this in the next few years.”

The new dedicated LancsTV channel will be available in India on the JioTV mobile app and connected televisions through JioTV Plus.

JioTV has more than 1,000 channels which draws in tens of millions of unique visitors each month.

As a result, the platform is said to be the best way for Lancashire to increase its exposure and attract as many cricket fans as possible.

“Jio has one of the biggest audiences in India and is a huge brand,” Price said. “They provide us with a platform to reach the audiences and an opportunity to reach cricket lovers in the country.”

Colin McKevitt, media production director at Badger and Combes, which produces LancsTV, also feels a shift in the distribution of content is advantageous for LancsTV and JioTV.

“Jio is not a traditional broadcaster, it is predominantly a self-owned subscriber model and that adds to exactly what we are doing, which is reaching audiences in different, new ways,” he told TheStadiumBusiness.

“That traditional way of watching television is changing. Only recently, two massive media companies that let out kit have gone bust because the way that content is being generated and distributed has transformed.”

Benefitting the women’s game

The impact of the new LancsTV platform in India will also be felt in women’s cricket as the Lancashire Thunder Twenty20 side is included in broadcasting.

The women’s team have already had two exhibition matches against a Bangalore Representative XI aired on JioTV and will continue to feature on the channel.

In addition to increased participation, Lancashire Cricket has seen the rise of women’s sport as a whole as a positive sign for its aim of commercialising LancsTV.

Football, golf, and tennis are the frontrunners when it comes to prize money and popularity but cricket is chasing close behind.

“Women’s cricket is growing exponentially, both on and off the field,” Price said.

“There are huge commercial opportunities around women’s sport. Women’s cricket is growing very quickly.

“Just last month we were allocated a tier one domestic team as part of a new women’s cricket restructure. From next year, that gives us control of the Lancashire Thunder team.

“From a commercial point of view, we work with two brands in the form of Hilton and Sportsbreaks who are particularly interested in specifically funding the women’s game and the women’s professional set-up and so it is all really, really exciting.”

Up for awards

LancsTV’s partnership with Jio has not gone unnoticed as it is shortlisted for the Sponsorship, Sales & Marketing prize at this year’s TheStadiumBusiness Awards.

It is up against initiatives from the likes of Everton FC, C.D. Leganés, Murrayfield, Wrexham FC, and Manchester City Women.

For Price, the nomination marks LancsTV’s impressive rise. However, he feels it is still just the beginning for the platform.

“We are really proud to be nominated,” he said. “I think we have come a long way in a short period of time and I think this is just the start.

“The opportunities are really big in this space, both from a broadcast perspective but also in the way digital media is being consumed at the moment and how it will continue to do so in the next few years.”