Launched in 2008, Cricket Nirvana was probably the first website in India to experiment with live streaming of Cricket matches. It began with a subscription model, and later switched to an an advertising supported public feed. Tensports, supported by NBC Universal, later followed suit, and recently, YouTube acquired rights for the Indian Premier League, and plans to stream it free. MediaNama spoke with Jose Felix, VP(New Media), Nimbus Communications to understand better their experience with live streaming, the advertising model, and whether it’s been a viable business proposition so far.

Why did you switch from subscription to ad supported live streaming?

With the subscription model we were predominantly targeting people from India because rights for US and other places are syndicated to other broadcasting companies. This is a space with no history, and we realized that in a country like India, people are not willing to pay for content even if it is Cricket. You cannot generate enough revenue to cover the CDN cost. After 2-3 series, we started free streaming. World wide none of the sporting events are free, all the events go on subscription.

We are trying out different combinations, but the one that worked is VDOPIA‘s VLive Techonology, through which we were able to crack in-stream videos during live stream, pre-rolls and mid-rolls. I think we started during the India – Australia series, and were able to stabilise this particular service from the second series onwards. Prior to that we had two series for free, and the revenue model there was Video on Demand, but there was no facility to insert video during live stream.

So you get a clear feed, and you insert the video ads? Are the ads now able to cover your costs?

We are a broadcasting company: the clear feed goes to my studio, where we have the ability to switch from live stream to advertisement. We started monetising it through ads between overs and during breaks. We are breaking even at the CDN cost level, even at the operational cost level. Breaking even at the rights level is a challenge which we are trying to address. It takes time to get it right.

What type of advertising model have you adopted and what rates are you charging?

There is no choice in India except CPM (Cost per Milli impressions). The rates vary – for example we were averaging about Rs. 275 – 300 CPM during the India-Sri Lanka series. Currently we are averaging Rs. 450-500 CPM.

How many impressions do you deliver during a match?

On a normal day we average about 150,000 hours of streaming, often more. Per hour you have approximately 10 overs, and 11 breaks. You have around 100 overs in a match, so you typically have 102 breaks. So lets take another 15 wickets, that is 125 breaks. We also use the NEO feed for pre-match, lunch break and post- match analysis, a total of 1.5 hrs, with breaks.

What are the challenges that you face?

Traditionally what happens in the Internet space, the challenges are that the advertisers that we have are the ones that have evolved, because people wonder whether anyone will watch Cricket on the Internet. Many don’t realize that if only 10000 people, you pay only for 10000 people. VLive has a tracking mechanism. The other challenge we face is that people complain that there are ads during live stream. They don’t expect ads on the Internet, and do not understand that we incur huge CDN costs. One of the biggest challenges in this space is to manage the cost of streaming. We use Tata Communications (BitGravity).

What are some of the trends that you have noticed?

When we started, we thought that we would have ten percent traffic during Test Matches as compared to One Day Internationals. It turned out that Tests actually give traffic at par with ODIs on a single match day basis. I think it has something to do with the nature of the Test. People are in the office and they want to check it for half an hour, forty minutes.

In terms of the recent tri-series we have had a dip of 30-40% in traffic when Sri Lanka and Bangladesh played. The traffic spikes when India plays and increases about 40-50% when India bats. It is generally a peak when Sachin (Tendulkar) bats. When India is playing, it is at its lowest when the opponents are batting. When India is doing very badly, the traffic reduces by 10 points. For other matches, we were quite surprised during the Sri Lanka -Bangladesh match, that the traffic was more when Bangladesh was batting.

Which rights do you own?

We are actually number one Indian video portal, not just cricket in terms of the amount of video served. It is not just BCCI, we have the rights for Bangladesh Cricket Board, Cricket Kenya, the Asian Cricket Council, which hosts the Afro-Asian Cup and Asia Cup.

What are you thoughts on licensing the digital rights out like Global Cricket Ventures has done with YouTube? Would you take that approach?

The rights are owned by Nimbus Communications Limited, we have a division that manages the rights called Nimbus Sports. Nimbus Sports has given us the rights. The general practise is that the TV players buy out the internet rights too so we have Internet, Radio and Television rights. From April 1st we have mobile rights too. Somebody who is buying the rights for the region will also buy Internet rights and keep it within its control because traditionally in the markets like US and UK the Internet right can actually jeopardise your TV revenue. So what they do they join with Internet players or live stream in their own site and ask for subscription.