SVG Sit-Down: Tata Communications’ Dhaval Ponda on How Acquiring The Switch Will Impact the Sports-Media Industry

The deal pairs The Switch’s North American presence with Tata Communications’ global position

Just before the end of 2022, Tata Communications announced its acquisition of The Switch in a move that will have a tremendous impact on the live-transmission and -production industry. The acquisition gives Tata Communications a stronger foothold in the Americas M&E market and extends its portfolio further into live video production. In its announcement, Tata also said the deal will position the newly combined entity as “an end-to-end media-ecosystem player in the entire content-development value chain globally.”

SVG sat down with Dhaval Ponda, global head of media and entertainment services, Tata Communications, to discuss why the deal made sense for Tata, how The Switch will expand Tata’s offerings, what the deal means specifically for live-sports broadcasters, what established customers of The Switch can expect, and how he sees the sports-media industry evolving (and expanding) in the coming years. 

Why did this deal make sense for Tata Communications? What were the key aspects that convinced it to move forward with the acquisition?
Tata Communications is fully committed to enabling the once-in-a-generation disruption going on in media and entertainment industry globally. We have consistently invested in capabilities, talent, and technology over many years and currently have a disproportionate market share when it comes to global sports content.

Tata Communications’ Dhaval Ponda: “[We] will gain extended reach in a majority of North American sports venues.”

We have been helping sports federations, broadcasters, and OTT players manage and transfer content from various sports venues globally to almost every single screen in the world. Many sports organizations are adapting to streaming live events and have come to find that it’s attracting a bigger audience, reaching those abroad who may not have access to a traditional telecast. According to Nielsen, in August 2022, sports streaming captured 35% of total TV time, capping six consecutive months of viewership highs. We already have a high-performant, video-native Media Edge and Media Cloud platform with global reach. Today, it is supporting one of the most complex video workflows globally, such as low-latency streaming of a live game on the user’s mobile screen, which is in sync with their television screens.

What key services/resources/abilities, etc. does this acquisition add to your portfolio that you did not have before?
The Switch is a leading provider of end-to-end live-video–production and –transmission services globally. It has a high NPS with customers and is exceptionally well-known for its broadcast experience and superior service. With this partnership, Tata Communications will gain extended reach in a majority of North American sports venues. It will also help us expand our portfolio into live video production and become uniquely positioned as an end-to-end media-ecosystem player in the entire content-development value chain globally.

By leveraging our existing capabilities and with The Switch team, we will now be able to develop holistic, scalable solutions encompassing live and scheduled programming for television, leveraging prerecorded and filed videos for new-content creation and all postproduction.

How does the newly combined entity create a better value proposition for sports broadcasters specifically?
The global media and entertainment industry is at a once-in-a-generation digital transformation driven by a fundamental change in consumer consumption behaviors. According to Statista, in 2022, adults in the U.S. devoted eight hours a day to consuming digital media and entertainment channels. Within this, live sports continue to be the most premium form of content. Broadcasters and OTT players are constantly exploring ways to monetize this by improving at-home fan engagement, and the opportunity is immense.

What can The Switch customers expect in terms of enhanced/changed services?
Tata Communications will support The Switch customers with global reach to over 190 countries and territories, and The Switch will bring state-0f-the-art live-production capabilities helping organizations to produce high-quality, more immersive content faster and more efficiently. Tata Communications will bring advanced Cloud and Media Edge capabilities to Switch customers, bringing a compelling proposition to the industry by helping shift media workflows to the cloud in a seamless manner. The Switch and Tata Communications teams, together, will help the industry evolve to the next level of at-venue and at-home fan engagement.

Do you see the sports-transmission sector as a valuable market and/or key growth area in the coming years?
With people spending more time on television and digital screens, today has emerged as a golden era of content consumption. With the demand for easily accessible content ever increasing, live sports continue to be the most premium form of content, commanding high viewership and loyalty across regions. The sports-rights market is expected to cross $85 billion on an annual basis. Additionally, the demand for more local programming is putting immense pressure on chief experience officers to leverage technology for effective ways of production.

According to new market-research report “Live Streaming Market,” the live-streaming market is expected to reach $4.26 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 22.4% from 2021 to 2028. Per IABM DC Market Outlook, the global market for video production is at $8 billion. Consequently, the global market for video transmission is over $4 billion, and live video production is over $12 billion.

Live-broadcast technology over the internet has improved significantly and is increasingly being used for live-streaming esports and sports events. Furthermore, live streaming became a necessary alternative for numerous applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, there is considerable growth in the demand for live-streaming technology to enable high-quality streams. With our expertise and capabilities, we are helping broadcasters and sports federations to capture this opportune market and deliver innovative experiences to fans globally.

In the announcement, you described the newly combined entity as “an end-to-end media-ecosystem player in the entire content-development value chain globally.” Can you expand on what you mean by that?
Tata Communications already operates a global video-native technology platform that supports not only the best in broadcast engineering but also leverages cloud and edge capability to support media workflows like low-latency streaming, cloud-based playout and production capabilities. [Combining] this with Switch’s high focus on broadcast excellence, production capabilities, and venue reach, the overall business will be able to partner with the industry for managing the full technology stack and the managed service in a more meaningful manner. Single team with full ownership, single commercial contracts, and end-to-end SLA ownership underpinned by the same focus on managed service is something that we can bring to the industry.

This allows Tata Communications and Switch to be involved in all aspects of the content-development value chain, from the creation of content to its distribution and consumption. With this newly combined entity being an end-to-end media-ecosystem player, it allows for control over the entire content-development value chain and can streamline the process, reduce costs, and ensure the quality of the final product.

How does this boost Tata Communications’ footprint and presence in the U.S./North America specifically?
According to a report done by Oberlo, the U.S. digital-media consumption is forecast to increase and hit eight hours and 23 minutes this year. Analysts predict it will rise by another five minutes to total eight hours and 28 minutes in 2024. This ever-growing U.S. market of content consumers come to expect exceptional content delivery. Pairing The Switch’s strong presence in North America and Tata Communications’ global position will create a formidable powerhouse in the global media ecosystem, helping U.S. enterprises harness emerging digital-consumption patterns to drive innovation and disruption.

Tata Communications currently focuses on global media business in North America along with a strong enterprise business. With this partnership with Switch, the company will significantly extend the capillarity of the media network, expand digital presence, and also have a highly trusted team in region. Tata Communications is committed to sustained investment in the media and entertainment industry on a long-term basis in terms of talent, digital infrastructure, and managed-services capability.

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