Fantasy sports firms look to tap IPL frenzy, add new users


NEW DELHI: The Indian fantasy sports industry is getting ready to on-board new users, especially from tier II and III cities, with the Indian Premier league (IPL) starting on 19 September, after 18 months.

Fantasy gaming platforms see a massive demand for IPL-related content, especially from users in smaller towns, particularly because of the disruption in live sports events because of the covid-19 pandemic

Fantasy sports firms are relying on partnerships with IPL teams and former cricketers and offering cost-effective season passes with unlimited access to contests along with cash incentives to sign up new users this year.

For instance, Dream11 bagged the IPL sponsorship rights in August, while Mobile Premier League (MPL) is sponsoring two IPL teams, KKR and RCB, this season. The companies hope to expand their reach with the initiatives. Paytm First Games has roped in Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador and plans a 360-degree marketing campaign to raise awareness about fantasy sport, especially among audiences in tier II and III towns.

“The timing for these tie-ups couldn’t have been better. We have just emerged from the lockdown and online gaming has been getting a lot of attention,” said Harish Bijoor, a leading brand consultant.

The platforms have also rolled out new offerings to attract first-time users. MPL is offering a 99 season ticket with unlimited access to all fantasy cricket contests for the entire duration of the IPL. Otherwise charges for each gaming event could vary between 2 and 30. Paytm First Games has also added a new feature, Guru, which will help newbies learn tricks of fantasy sports.

“IPL is the biggest event in terms of user engagement within the fantasy sports genre with over 30-40% the year’s metrics coming from the two months of cricket. As cricket reaches the maximum audience in the country, connected with fantasy cricket, IPL becomes a great vehicle to increase reach for the overall platform,” said Sudhanshu Gupta, COO, Paytm First Games.

Others such as Fantasy Akhada is offering cash prizes, over and above what gamers make from contests.

MPL and Paytm First Games are hoping to cross 80 million and 100 million users by the end of the IPL, respectively.

Fantasy sports is one of the fastest growing gaming segments in India and IPL is the single most important tournament for these platforms. According to FIFS-KPMG 2020 report, gross revenue of online fantasy sports companies in FY20 was 2,400 crore compared to 920 crore in FY 2019. IPL constitutes 35-40% of industry revenue.

However, unlike online gaming, fantasy sports is linked to live sports and due to the cancellation of major sports events across the world due to the pandemic, the revenue stream from fantasy sports was disrupted. Standalone fantasy platforms were the worst hit.

As per the FIFS-KPMG report, due to covid-19 fantasy sports might end up with a 20-22% decline in terms of GMV (gross merchandise value) in FY21 as compared to FY20.

Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation, points out, “the concept of fantasy gaming depends on live sports. Though other sports have started in the last couple of months, it is IPL which is going to be important due to its huge fan following across the world. It will give the platforms the much needed impetus.”

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