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Research imperative to exploit big sports leagues

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MUMBAI: The year 2014 witnessed the emergence of sports as it rekindled the nation’s hope and sports channels played a huge role in creating buzz in the arena of sports.

The successful league models in Kabaddi, Cricket, Hockey, Football, Badminton and Tennis paved the way to create viable career options for young Indians. However, the key to success remains in monetization and return of investment for stakeholders and the sustainability of their business models.

In a session of FICCI Frames moderated by Group M national director sports and entertainment Vinit Karnik, which had Percept joint MD Shailendra Singh, DOIT media founder Radha Kapoor, KKR CEO Venky Mysore and various sports franchise owner Abhishek Bachchan, panelists spoke on the issues relating to a national policy on sports.

Infrastructure status to build stadiums and facilities, challenges before rights holders to monetise sports content, franchisees business models and a national curriculum on sports were some of the topics that were touched upon.

The panel spoke aggressively against federation becoming a regulatory body and intruding into business strategies of a privately owned entity. Speaking on the same Singh said, “The growth is determined by demand and supply, you can make money of something you go for it. India has a large youth population desperately waiting for an opportunity to make a career out of sports but what's stopping them is poor infrastructure and that is where Narendra Modi is going wrong. The federations are unwanted obstacles headed by corrupts. They make things difficult and people walk off from doing a business. I organised a similar tournament like IPL in 1999 but Dalmiya called it Masala and asked me to stop it immediately. Today BCCI cherishes the IPL.”

While Venky Mysore, who closely works with the BCCI being the CEO of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), emphasised on the commercial sector saying, “While it’s easier to work with the BCCI considering the fact that one has to deal with less number of people compared to the sports ministry, their intrusion in the business and strategic affairs of the franchisee is a bit irrational. KKR has made money out of IPL and we are a debt free franchisee - a fact that I am proud of. For any brand to work in India you need fans and the ratings show that KKR matches always bag the pole position. So every new sport has room but it should not be rushed as the loss is immense.”

While non-cricketing sports are also emerging in the major sporting league category, making money out of them is difficult for broadcasters, addressing the issue Bachchan said, “When Charu came to me with the Pro Kabaddi concept, I was shocked. But after seeing the ground reality my perception changed. There are more than 1500 Kabaddi clubs in Mumbai desperately looking for an opportunity and a platform to showcase their talent and Star and Pro Kabbadi League opened it up for them. The Indian Super League (ISL) is another example of broadcasters and corporates coming together to put up an exquisite event. Due to the ISL deal that ensures ground level improvement of the sport, more kids are getting the infrastructure they deserve, which will show its relevance 10 years down the line.”

DOIT Media founder served for more women participation and declared new platforms for women in India. “We are launching a new kabaddi league dedicated to women, which will ensure their participation and it's just the beginning. Every sport in future may have a female version too because the talent exists but gets rusted due to lack of use.”

Every major sport now has two leagues but all of them are not profitable for the broadcaster. Kabbaddi changed rules to rope in more revenue generating opportunities and the federation supported it, cricket also did the same with innovations like strategic time out. While it is very important not to lose the authenticity of the sport, generating revenue is a big necessity in order to ensure longitivity.     

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