When Star Plus associated itself with IPL this year, which was telecasted by rival Set Max, it was not only an effort to reinstate brand recall in the prime time slot, but also convey a message of its association with sports.
STAR India has recently bought one-third stake in a company jointly owned by Reliance Industries and IMG that is all set to launch an IPL-style football tournament commencing from January.
As per an official statement, “The league to be called ‘The Indian Super League’ will feature eight city-specific teams to start with, and will tap the burgeoning interest among the country's young population that's increasingly seen taking interest in the sport globally. The League will kick-off in January 2014 and will run through March 2014, with plans for a second window in the same year.”
Reportedly, STAR is paying INR 2000 crore for the entire deal, which includes an equity stake and broadcasting rights. Experts believe that amount could be more as the deal has been sealed for 10 years.
STAR’s venture into sports business is a step ahead from its sports broadcasting business. Can this step be a game-changer? Considering football has a huge following in India, experts maintain that STAR’s move is future-oriented. Sources predict that as football gains prominence in India, fans and the sport lovers will have more tangible association with the media brand.
“For far too long, the Indian sports fan has quietly waited for this revolution on the cusp of which we stand today. Our objective is nothing short of creating a movement around football in India. We want to put India on the global map,” said Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India.
Pradeep Iyengar, President, EMM India shared, “By buying stake and broadcast rights, STAR would secure on and off air branding. This would not only ensure huge returns, but also establish STAR as a brand synonymous with sports. It is already known to be associated with cricket.”
Football is emerging as a very popular sport in India. Football leagues in various European nations such as English Premier League and La-Liga have a very dedicated and robust viewership in the Indian metros. STAR will use its expertise of managing, networking and packaging cricket in the football league; therefore, monetising it heavily off and on the field.
A senior media analyst, on condition of anonymity, mentioned, “It is a nice gamble by STAR India. With time, football will only grow. The game is good, but STAR would gradually need people, franchises, and above all, team stadiums to make this initiative a grand one. Like IPL, there has to be a sense of ownership from people.”
Since football is not deep rooted as cricket in India, STAR and its partners will definitely need to work aggressively at the grass root level. Some industry sources believe that the initial years would definitely be a challenge for the league, but as more people tune in and the game of football gains more prominence, returns would start pouring in.
A smart move
Since STAR India also owns the broadcasting rights, it would be depending upon advertisers to associate with the event, and hence RoI for STAR would be dual. Experts predict that since STAR has bought an equity stake in the league, it in a way becomes its own property. Therefore, there is no question about the league being transferred to other broadcasters when the deal ends. STAR has secured its place in the long run.
Arshad Nizam, Director, Alliance Advertising said, “STAR India and Reliance IMG have invested in the young demography of India. The step is strategically placed. It is a win-win situation for all the three stakeholders. STAR India has been aggressive in investing in sports business and this development is likely to make it more secure on the platform of football as it grows.”
A senior advertiser shared, “Football has huge potential in India. STAR’s association with the burgeoning sport might propel other broadcasters to also get aggressive in terms of associating with sports. Surely this will take sports broadcasting to a new level.”