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Are non-cricket sports properties the way forward in 2015?

Are non-cricket sports properties the way forward in 2015?

Author | Collin Furtado | Wednesday, Jan 07,2015 7:57 AM

Are non-cricket sports properties the way forward in 2015?

The sports genre has had the most significant developments during the year 2014. Domestic leagues other than cricket got a significant boost from TV broadcasters who sought to provide viewers with a variety of sports. Vast investments were made by sports broadcasters who saw the need to promote sports such as Kabaddi, Football, Badminton, Hockey, Tennis, Basketball, etc.

The rise of non-cricket leagues

Domestic sports started with the second edition of the Hero Hockey India League (HIL) from January 25, 2014 to February 23, 2014. Star Sports was their broadcast partner. For the second edition there were strong promotion campaigns created which leveraged the strength of the entire Star India network. Added to this in January 2014 Star India announced the signing of an eight year deal with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) for the global broadcasting rights, excluding Argentina. The network is expected to broadcast the matches across 200 countries through international affiliates and other national broadcasters. Ten Sports held the four-year term deal with FIH for the broadcasting rights which end in 2014. Hero MotoCorp is the title sponsor for the league.

Star Sports that holds the rights for the Indian Badminton League (IBL) in its second edition had seen the league being postponed to early next year (January-February 2015) from September-October 2014. The reason for this is attributed to the busy international schedule that forced the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to postpone the event.

One sport that came as a surprise to everyone and made its debut on television screens was the ancient sport of Kabaddi. Star Sports continued its expansion the sports business with the acquisition of the rights to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) and also became an active partner in the sports promotion and popularity. Marshal Sports are the promoters of PKL, while Star Sports holds the broadcasting rights to the sport and is looking to grow the league in the coming year. With heavy marketing and promotion activities, the sport gathered momentum in the first season itself. With the backing of big celebrities and industrialists as franchise owners the league gained more popularity. The league took place in July 2014.

It was not only Star Sports that was expanding their sports business, Sony SIX of Multi Screen Media (MSM), also promoted its own Kabaddi league, the World Kabaddi League. The World Kabaddi League, which is worldwide circle style kabaddi league. Unlike the Pro Kabaddi League that had mostly Indians participating in it and the tournament being held only in India, the World Kabaddi League had international participation and the league travelled to countries such as USA, Canada, Pakistan and UK. The league was held during August-September 2014. Wave was the title sponsor for the league.

The first edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) started in October 2014 and just concluded in December 2014. Apart from just acquiring the rights to the Indian football league Star India became a broadcast-promoter for the league along with promoters IMG and Reliance. The league was heavily promoted on Star India network and was made available across eight channels and in five different languages.

Tennis was another sport which gained prominence during 2014 with the launch of two new leagues the International Premiere Tennis League (IPTL) and the Champions Tennis League (CTL). While Star Sports bagged the rights for the IPTL, rival Sony SIX bagged the rights for the CTL. The IPTL was launched in November 2014 which saw teams belonging to four Asian cities i.e. Dubai, Manila, New Delhi and Singapore going head to head. The IPTL is promoted by Indian tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi and featured top players such as Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Gael Monfils, Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna and Fabrice Santoro in the Indian team called Micromax Indian Aces (Micromax was the title sponsor for the team). Other team players included the likes of Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic among a few. Coca-Cola International was the title sponsor, while Qatar Airways was the presenting sponsor for the league.

The CTL also held in November 2014 was a pan Indian tennis tournament that was promoted by India sports tennis legend Vijay Amritraj’s company Second Serve. The league was styled around the Indian Premier League (IPL) format with six different teams representing cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Punjab.

Massive investments in sports properties in 2014

Advertising revenues from the sports category have doubled from Rs 2,139 crore to Rs 4,110 between 2008 and 2013, according the Sportz Power GroupM ESP report. IPL is estimated to earn MSM an estimated Rs 900 crore currently according to media reports. Star India leads in the investments made in the sports business, followed closely by MSM. Star India had committed to invest Rs.20,000 crore on sports in 2014 and is expected to invest another $2 billion over the next five years according to some media reports. The network is also said to have invested another $2 billion in 2014 to acquire the broadcast rights from BCCI for the next eight years till 2023, according to media reports. According to a FICCI report released recently titled ‘Business of Sports Aiming Higher, Reaching Further’, Star India has currently invested $242 million properties such as ICC Events, IPTL, FIH, Summer Olympic Games, Formulae One, FIFA Confederation Cup, FIFA World Cup Qualifiers (AFC), AFC Champion Leagues, La Liga, Premier League, Seria A, FA Cup, ISL, Wimbledon.  

Part of Star India’s investments in sports include Rs 1,500 crore in hockey in the country over the next eight years to develop the game. It also invested close to Rs 100 crore for the second season of HIL on improving the promotion and production values of the tournament said a media report. It also signed the 8 year deal with FIH for the international broadcast rights of hockey.

The Rs.20,000 crore investment would also includes the IBL that has a brand value of US$1 million and is consequently the richest badminton league in the world. Apart from this it would also include Pro Kabaddi League, ISL and IPTL. Hero MotoCorp acquired the title sponsorship rights for ISL for an estimated Rs.60-65 crore over the next three years according to media reports.

According to the FICCI report MSM has currently invested $3.2 billion in acquiring the broadcast rights which include the IPL, UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers, European qualifiers for 2018 FIFA World Cup, 2018 FIFA World Cup, TNA, Australian Open Tennis Championship, NBA and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). MSM is said to have acquired the rights for the FIFA World Cup 2014 and 2018 and also the Euro 2016 tournaments which is a five-year deal for the broadcast rights estimated to be $90 million according to some media reports.

Taj Television’s Ten Sports is said to have invested a little over $100 million (Rs.600 crore) on sports properties during the year according to a media report. This includes properties such as the US Open, The Commonwealth Games, Moto GP, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, German Cup, Federation Cup, MLS and Golf Chennai Open.

The fourth player in the sports broadcast business, Nimbus Communications’ Neo Sports and Neo Prime is said to have invested $2 million according to the FICCI report for International Cricket in Bangladesh, Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Copa America, Rugby World Cup, Davis Cup and UEFA Women’s Championship.   
What about the viewership?

Many of these leagues that were started in India were styled in the format of the IPL. This was with a hope that the same format for a different sport would work for audiences in India. However, not all tournaments were successful at drawing large audiences onto TV screens and would take many more years for them to become profitable ventures like the IPL. The most successful of the newly started properties was the PKL and ISL which managed to gain good traction in terms of viewership during the launch. PKL was the most successful which got a cumulative reach of 435 million throughout the entire tournament. ISL’s viewership was a little bit lower and brought in viewership of 429 million during the entire tournament according data from TAM subscribers. One of the strategies that Star India used of broadcasting these two leagues across multiple channel platforms did well to gather viewership and reach for the tournaments. While PKL was broadcasted on two channels Star Sports and Star Gold, ISL was broadcasted across eight channels, thereby increasing the reach phenomenally.

A month into the launch of the Wave World Kabaddi League had seen its ratings go to 0.05 average rating points. While HIL in its last edition brought in 0.03 average rating points and IBL 0.028 average rating points in its last edition according to some media reports.  

TV broadcasters are looking towards the sports models in America and trying to create business which brings in profits throughout the year.

The FICCI report states that a workforce of 4.3 million would be required by the Indian Sports Industry by 2025 and runs parallel with the growth of India’s economy. Heavy investments will be made by the government to develop sports as allocation for the sports and youth ministry for 2014-15 saw a rise of Rs.561.24 crore, a 46.5% jump from the last fiscal. This includes the opening of 70 sports academies in the next 10 years for 18 different sports. It is estimated that Rs.90 crore will be spent by the government for each academy. With this we can expect a push by investors globally in 2015 to increase their investment in sports in India due to the huge market potential of the country. With that being said, it is definitely exciting time for viewers with so much diverse sports content coming their way.     

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