This year’s edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was expected to be bigger than ever for the many online fantasy sporting leagues. But the Covid-19 pandemic and the indefinite suspension of the cricket tournament has put huge marketing and advertising plans on hold, and forced many platforms to switch tracks.
The best known of the many fantasy leagues in India is Dream XI, that has former India captain MS Dhoni as a brand ambassador, and has been an official IPL partner since 2018. The platform claims to have 70 million registered users itself, but with sport on hold, the platform went into hibernation. A spokesperson for the platform refused to comment for this article.
“Businesses like ours are heavily dependent on the availability of live sporting properties and that part of the revenue definitely has had an impact and that’s not hidden as sports globally has taken a back seat,” said Vinit Godara, CEO and co-founder of fantasy sporting league MyTeam11.
But Godara said that the inflow of users on the platform has remained steady despite the absence of sport. That’s because fantasy sporting leagues like MyTeam11, My11Circle, HalaPlay and BalleBaazi have switched to alternative means to keep users engaged like games, quizzes and old favourites like ludo and rummy.
MyTeam11 has introduced new products like MyTeam11 Quiz and MyTeamRummy which it says has ensured user growth and engagement. The quiz consists of hourly competitions in a 10-question format and requires users to pay Rs 28 and they stand to win upto Rs 100 for every correct answer. There are also Bollywood and personality quizzes.
Example, a quiz on Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli has questions like ‘when did he start playing cricket’ etc.
‘Traffic increased more than 4 times in last few weeks’
Piyush, founder and CEO of Rooter, said they’re seeing higher engagement since a nationwide lockdown began on March 24. The platform that allows users to connect and discuss sports is seeing people “consume all kinds of content”, he said.
“Users are also uploading massive amounts of content across images and videos creating a lot of engagement for other sports fans. So while an active sports calendar is great for our business, the current lockdown has in fact increased engagement on our platform,” Piyush said.
Rooter has also tied up with Paytm recently, and Piyush is hopeful of a boost once live sporting events restart. “If IPL and T20 World Cup happen as planned, we will see massive growth this year now that gaming is also a part of our offering,” he said.
Paytm First Games has been letting users play ludo, rummy and tens of other mobile games. On Google’s App store, the app touts a ludo tournament in which users can win upto Rs 10 lakh in Paytm cash.
“Our traffic has increased more than 4 times in the last few weeks compared to pre-lockdown days. We see an influx of more than 1 lakh new users on the platform daily with a healthy over 60 per cent contribution of the new user traffic coming from tier 2 and 3 towns as well,” said Sudhanshu Gupta, COO of Paytm First Games.
Gupta said the app is planning to introduce many more games like carrom in the future and they have seen over a lakh users participate in its ludo tournament. Their first esports tournament received over 12,000 registrations, he said.
“We would like to continue building on the momentum gained in the last 6-8 weeks by adding more exciting games and game formats in the coming weeks,” said Gupta.
Ticketing app BookMyShow has followed a similar path in the absence of ticketing of sporting or any other kind of event.
“We have been working closely with our partners in the esports category, bringing varied options such as Pubg mobile tournaments and Mafia – Bin Patti Khelo Humare Saath, amongst others, for e-gamers across the country,” said Albert Almeida, COO of BookMyShow Live Entertainment.
Almeida said that over three million had viewed these events and they are adding more options to the list of virtual experiences. Incidentally, a MyTeam11 survey, conducted on the app with over 10,000 respondents, found that over 40 per cent of the respondents said they would prefer to watch sports from their homes till there is a vaccine available for the coronavirus.
Preparing for the unlocking
After weeks of lockdown, the world of sports is slowly restarting. Germany’s premier football league Bundesliga started games in empty stadiums. Thousands have viewed football matches in South Korea on YouTube. The English Premier League hopes to start in June. India has now opened stadiums to let athletes start training but there’s little clarity on holding sporting events. The IPL remains uncertain. But it’s a welcome change for these platforms.
“For us at Rooter, we started covering Bundesliga from the first match last weekend and we will build engagement around all sports as they come back in action,” said Piyush from Rooter.
MyTeam11’s Godara said they had alerted users through the app and social media about the return of the Bundesliga as soon as it was announced by the German football board. “We are hopeful that with the world of sports slowly getting back to the field will only help us in reducing the impact that we have faced in the second quarter of the year,” said Godara from MyTeam11.
In the coming weeks, the platforms are preparing for a bigger audience and wider engagement.
“We are happy that sports are starting to open up across the globe as it would indicate that similar activities in India would also eventually open up. With Bundesliga opening up we are already seeing a return of fantasy sports users on the platform and we will increase engagement activities in the coming weeks,” said Gupta from Paytm.