South Africa’s Mzansi Super League (MSL) may be the newest T20 kid on the block, but as its second season begins, it already appears to be on an auspicious trajectory
South Africa’s showpiece T20 league, the Mzansi Super League (MSL) which had a fairly successful first season, is set to start its second season today (Nov, 8th 2019). It looks poised to capture eyeballs again as it is slated to continue to be broadcast on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), a free-to-air channel which was the broadcast partner in the first season as well. Even though it is just a year-old league it has the classic ‘get bigger and better’ mantra going for it. It will be featuring more International Stars while being broadcast not just in South Africa, but also in the leading Cricketing Markets of the world like India, Australia, and the UK.
Extrapolations from its inaugural season already look promising. In 2018, 30 matches were played, cumulating to around 127 broadcasted hours, notching up nearly a million TV-viewers on average (per game) in South Africa including a stellar opening weekend when it clocked an eye popping 3.4 million viewers featuring four (4) matches. The levels of viewership should hold for the sophomore season of the league in 2019 as Sony Pictures Network (SPN) holding the rights is going to stream live matches in India on Sony Six and Sony Six HD and the subcontinent (Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, and Bhutan) countries via SonyLiv digital platform (Website, App). The subcontinent push has been key for Cricket South Africa (CSA) for growing its audience and the cricket body along with Global Sports Commerce (GSC) has partnered with SPN for its first season of the MSL T20 in India and the subcontinent
The MSL has established itself among the big three T20 leagues in terms of viewership in India (after the IPL and the BBL). That makes it an attractive proposition especially in the overseas markets, particularly India, where SPN holds the rights. More than 90% of the sports viewership in India is comprised of those who watch cricket. The upshot is that even if barely 0.5-1% of the 50 billion impression sports programming has clocked in India over the last couple of years (as per BARC’s report on the game’s viewership in India) were from a league like the MSL, it would still be more than its average viewership in South Africa. Incidentally, this year’s MSL will also be streamed on FanCode (which is the sports aggregator platform of the official fantasy league of the MSL – Dream 11). This adds another layer of audience, the ones who have been drawn to sporting contests because of their affinity for fantasy gaming, a market that is exploding (~100% CAGR over the last 3 years) in India.
According to the cricket governing body in South Africa, the Average-TV-Audience (ATA) was 1.6 million (per game) across different regions in the country in 2018. These levels of viewership were on the back of marketing efforts from CSA. To cite one instance, Street Network worked with governing body and the organizing team to roll out a campaign to attract more visibility as Mzansi Super League (MSL) by positioning it as “fast, fun, and for all”. It seems to have worked in terms of effectiveness as it reached out to over 1.5 million people in Gauteng region alone ~12% of the province’s total population.
With respect to the Indian Sports Market, this presents Indian and multinational brands the opportunity to tap into a substantial audience in India as well as in other cricket markets by integrating themselves through in-stadia branding through innovative branding packages such as perimeter boards, the sight screens, and of course the giant screen display at the stadiums. The significant base that the MSL built in the first season augurs well for anyone trying to look at a longer-term road map.
How attractive will the platform be in the coming seasons? The way the second season shapes up should give us that answer. For now, if you ask the Magic 8 Ball, it’s likely to say ‘Outlook Good’.