Did federation politics cost Sony Pictures Networks the telecast of World Cup Kabaddi?

Despite acquiring exclusive media rights for World Cup Kabaddi 2019, Sony Pictures Networks India said they could not televise the tournament due to events beyond their control

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Aug 1, 2019 7:43 AM

It was only last month that Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) announced it had acquired exclusive media rights for World Cup Kabaddi 2019. This is nothing off the mark but here is the peculiar bit - the World Cup was wrapped up last week in Malaysia (July 20 to July 28) but viewers did not get even catch a glimpse of the show. That’s because the event was never televised.

We reached out to the channel to understand why despite rights to televise the tournament on its sports channels across eight territories - India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan - the broadcast was skipped. 

The channel released a short statement in response saying: “While we were all set to broadcast the World Cup Kabaddi Melaka 2019 for all our Kabaddi fans in India, we were unable to do so as the organizers did not produce the event for television broadcast due to some issues that they were facing.”

India remains a cricket crazy country but over the years several other sports like Kabadddi have drawn large audiences to television screens. Even OTT platforms have been leveraging sports to raise its viewership. Brands too pour in money for advertisements and sponsorships for these big ticket events.  

World Cup Kabaddi 2019, for which Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), had acquired the exclusive media rights was also meant to telecast the event on their premium video on demand (VOD) service, SonyLIV. At the time of the announcement, Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head - Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India, had said as part of his statement: “Kabaddi is one of the more popular sports in the country and we are delighted to be the official broadcasters of an international tournament that positions kabaddi as a mainstream international sport." 

To understand the problems on the ground that led up to the cancellation of the TV broadcast, we dug a bit deeper, and some murky details of federation politics began to emerge. Sony Pictures Network, it seems, was the unsuspecting victim. The inability on the ground to maintain professionalism for a sport being played at an international level robbed viewers of the chance to celebrate India’s win, as both the men and women Indian Kabaddi teams won the tournament.

On completion of the event, a statement on the official Facebook page of World Cup Kabbadi Melaka 2019 reads: “The Malaysia Kabaddi Federation (MKF) and World Kabaddi would like to thank all those who contributed towards the success of World Cup Kabaddi 2019. Despite the problems faced you made this event happen.”

The Facebook post then goes on to thank those associated with the event and even spectators who turned up to lend their support. The post makes a scathing attack on Kabaddi Association of Malaysia (KAM) to the extent of calling them ‘inept’.

Following is the excerpt from the post:

“We have had our fair share of detractors who had tried to sabotage and stop the event from taking place. A big thank you to you too for your unethical effort has brought together the World Kabaddi family united and stronger in face of all the adversities. We had to waste plenty of time to clean up the mess made by these saboteurs, both from within as well as outside, especially the problems created by the inept Kabaddi Association of Malaysia (KAM).The success of the event has shown that kabaddi is bigger than self-serving officials and both the MKF and World Kabaddi would continue to promote the sport of kabaddi more professionally, effectively and holistically.”

While the Kabaddi Association of Malaysia (KAM) has been squarely blamed in the Facebook post for problems faced, it remains unclear as to what those problems were and how the event was sabotaged. We reached out by e-mail to the President for World Kabaddi, Ashok Kumar Das, for a comment. However, the response was still awaited at the time of filing the story. 

As per the World Cup Kabaddi 2019 website: “World Kabaddi is the governing body for the sport of kabaddi in all its three formats – National Style, Beach Kabaddi and Circle Style. World Kabaddi was established following a meeting of more than 50 countries from five continents in Bangalore in March 2018.”

For now, Sony Pictures Networks has moved on from the fiasco and is gearing up for the next big cricket extravaganza – the India tour of West Indies for which it is the official broadcaster. 

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