Can the Rossoneri Cultivate its Next Great Fan Base in India?

A new era appears to be dawning in Serie A, with a nine-season reign ended abruptly by the calculated build of Inter Milan. The fall of Juventus has left a vacuum that not just Inter muscled into, with Atalanta, Napoli, and AC Milan breaking up the table to sink Zebre further. The point was further emphasised on 9 May. As noted by AC Milan News, Juventus vs AC Milan was a decisive match, which the Rossoneri won 3-0.

With AC Milan set to secure their best finish since 2013, and Serie A seemingly becoming its most competitive in a decade, it seems to be the prime opportunity to advertise the club and league to primed new audiences. Prior to the 2019/20 season, the chief executive of the league, Luigi De Siervo, stated that India is a key marker for international development.

India has already proven receptive to football imports, so would Serie A be able to stake a claim in the nation of 1.3 billion people, and can AC Milan become even more popular as a result?

Foreign football is already making strides in India

It likely won’t come as a surprise that the English Premier League already has a strong following in India. With a cumulative worldwide audience of around 3.2 billion people, the chances were that a nation with close to one-sixth of the global population and an affinity for the language was going to tune in. Greatly helping this is a matter of circumstance, with the general 1 pm, 3 pm, and 5 pm kick-off times of Premier League football having them air at around 5 pm, 7 pm, and 9 pm in India.

However, to capitalise on these more convenient times, the league has sold its rights to the most popular OTT video platform in the country, Hotstar. The major player has focused on cricket to get national popularity, with it showing Premier League games. The Premier League’s globally-established reputation as one of, if not the best, football league in the world has also given it a strong footing in other sectors that intertwine with the fan experience.

This is most profoundly shown in online betting circles, with Asiabet India detailing that the Premier League is the most popular football league to bet on, with it already having millions of dedicated fans in India. As such, all of the recommended sites automatically offer deep markets for their games, making the experience of watching and betting on the Premier League better than with other sports. Most importantly here, though, is that these sites also treat Serie A with the same degree of importance and focus.

Can Serie A cultivate a similar impact to the Premier League?

Estimates place the linear global TV audience of Serie A at around 630 million, with transmissions reaching some 1 billion people. While not as widespread as the Premier League, Serie A certainly boasts a wide-ranging audience. In India, kick-off times shouldn’t be too much of a problem, either, with the usual 3 pm, 6 pm, and 8:45 pm local times equating to around 6 pm, 9 pm, and 11:45 pm.

So, other than the latest kick-offs – which the Premier League have some of, too – live Serie A games should be accessible to the Indian audience. While not on a video platform as widespread as Hotstar, Italian football can be found on SonyLIV, which is said to be the most popular among Tier I city residents. Games can also be watched through Sony Ten on television.

The foundations are in place for Serie A to take off across India, but a great deal of its progress will likely boil down to how the league promotes itself in the country. The emphasis, then, should also fall on the league partnering more closely with Sony to ramp up advertising and even launch promotions to invite more viewers to join the platform and watch the football. The league also has another promotional device that the Premier League is yet to, and likely never will, embrace.

Eight of the last 12 Supercoppa Italiana matches have been played outside of Italy, being staged in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and China. In fact, in 2003, Juventus and AC Milan dueled to a 5-3 penalty shootout in the US. Still seen as an important piece of silverware, the Supercoppa automatically showcases Italian football’s two most successful clubs of the year, making it a great match-up even for neutrals. For this to benefit AC Milan, though, the Rossoneri would need to win Serie A, Coppa Italia, or come second to a double-champion.

With a vast, sports-loving population that is already showing a fondness for European football, the Indian market could well become a significant fan base for Serie A. If AC Milan can climb to some domestic silverware, the iconic club can certainly establish itself among the millions of football fans of India.

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