“Creating sporting events more important than acquiring expensive rights”: Sanjay Gupta

MUMBAI: Star India is in major over drive mode. The network has picked up a 74 per cent stake in Mashal Sports, which is the owner of Pro Kabaddi League.


While delivering a keynote at the 2015 edition of Asia Pacific Video Operators Summit (APOS) Star India chief operating officer (COO) Sanjay Gupta spoke about the company’s aim to spawn a multi-sport culture in the country by promoting local content with events like Indian Super League (ISL) and Pro-Kabaddi League.


“People are queuing up to buy an English Premier League (EPL), a LaLiga or a Bundesliga, but the question here is how much engagement do these games actually offer as compared to relevant local content. We tried this with ISL and Kabaddi and the initial response has been very encouraging,” Gupta informed.


“Sports is a long haul business and it takes sustained investment to build something ground up. We need to have a long term commitment to build a sport… a 10 to 20 years approach to build it ground up. Take the example of EPL, which has been around for decades and has built an extremely strong consumer franchise, which advertisers are eager to associate with. The three year view of buying sporting rights has to change, which disallows most of the partners to make money and disincentives anyone trying to build a sport,” he further added.


Talking about lack of innovation in stifling sports business economics, Gupta said, “When there's a big sporting event, people congregate to watch in huge numbers. The only question is if there are enough of these happening and how much innovation has been happening.”


Speaking about mushrooming ventures like ISL and Pro Kabaddi League, Gupta added, “Better engagement in sports will drive greater consumption. People don't look happy when they win a sports bid. Practices in the sports business have become quite toxic. Instead of a content creation business this has been run as a rent a cab business. If I am league owner, chances are I'll squeeze more money from you than you can ever hope to earn. One of the challenges that we are seeing is that almost all of the investment in sports is going into rights cost. We are trying to change that by investing in basic sports infrastructure apart from rights, whether it was grooming the players for an on screen experience in Kabaddi or partnering to get the stadiums ready for ISL.”


Speaking about the stake acquisition in Mashal Sports, Star India CEO Uday Shankar said, “Star has acquired a majority stake in Mashal Sports with a vision to create an even more favourable ecosystem for the great Indian sport of Kabaddi and build on its successful launch. The investment, completely in sync with Star's aim to spawn a multi-sport culture in the country, will further help in nurturing India's sporting talent. We are totally committed to abiding with the vision of Mashal management and all stakeholders of Pro-Kabaddi and will further develop the league in the upcoming season 2.”

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