MUMBAI: Mumbai-based Greymatter Entertainment's name comes from that part of the human brain which is involved in muscle control and sensory perception such as seeing, hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control. Its promoters have been using a lot of that over the past five years as they have steered it into a tour de force in the Indian subcontinent’s sports television production business. Amongst the major sports events Greymatter has filmed for television include: the Indian Badminton League (IBL), Afghanistan Premiere League, Sri Lanka Premiere League, as well as the Celebrity Cricket League.
However, what the company is most kicked about these days is a new contract it has been awarded: that of producing the World Kabaddi League (WKL) which is slated to flag off from 9 August at the O2 Arena in London. With Wave as the title sponsor, WKL will be broadcast not just in India through Sony Six but to nearly 30 other countries over the four months it is slated to run.
"We can now proudly say, that we have only IMG-Reliance ahead of us in terms of days of sports television production in India," says Greymatter director Rahul Sarangi. "It is quite an achievement to arguably become the second largest sports TV producer in the Indian subcontinent. Leaving IPL and BCCI events out, we have 25 per cent of the live sports television events production pie."
Promoted by founder and CEO Chandradev Bhagat, Sarangi and director Payal Mathur - who were earlier engaged in various sports and entertainment events - Greymatter bagged the WKL rights following a fierce bidding war that included four or five other major sports TV producers globally.
The WKL is a privately owned company of Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal (he also serves as the president), and has Pargat Singh as commissioner with Raman Raheja serving as the CEO. It is slated to travel across six countries - the UK, the US, India, Pakistan, Canada and UAE - and has eight franchisee teams battling for a purse of Rs 4 crore.
The cities that the league matches will be held in include: London, Birmingham, Dubai, New York, Sacramento, Stockton, Toronto, Vancouver, Delhi, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Mohali.
Each Kabaddi match will be played on a circle style Kabaddi ground, 44 metres in diameter, as big as a hockey field. Cheerleaders, celebrities and performance will – as has become the practice in most sports telecasts – be there in good measure to spice up the screen. Sarangi, says that the WKL will have a narrative structure just like the IBL.
The country where the event is being held will have a live telecast during its prime time. Therefore, when it is in the US, it will be the US prime time and since it is early time for India, there will be a repeat during prime time.
“Sony Six has built an early morning prime time with NBA and this will also be at the 8 am slot. We can’t not have ground audience just to give a live evening feed to India,” points out Sarangi. Most of the matches will be held on weekends with very little during weekdays.
For the Indian feed, commentary will be in Hinglish with Anjum Chopra while for the world feed it will be in English. “The WKL will be full of action because it is a contact oriented sport, especially due to its circular format. Contact is the reason why WWE works and we believe this will too,” he adds.
Greymatter has put together a crew of 70 seasoned sports television production professionals from Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, and India to create the HD feed for broadcasters in the US, the UK, Canada, and Asia. 10 to 12 cameras will capture the action and relay it live for various broadcasters in Europe, Asia, the US, Canada, Pakistan and Africa. Bhagat and veteran sports television producer Keith McKenzie have been roped in as TV directors for the league.
During the four months, the actual shooting days will be about 45 with two matches per day. To keep its life simple Greymatter has tied up with local event and equipment rental companies.
Sources estimate the per day TV production cost to be at between Rs 25 lakh and 30 lakh with the budget for the entire league pegged at between Rs 15 crore and Rs 18 crore. That makes it a major win for the Rs 50 crore turnover production house.
“When we do something we spend the most amount of time on planning to get perfect quality work. We also ensure we have a tight and the right kind of people with us,” says Sarangi.
That’s something that is endorsed by a sports broadcasting executive who told indiantelevision.com that “Chandru has been a friend for long. He and his team do a damn good job, hence they have been winning production contracts.”
Greymatter has offices in Mumbai, Dubai and Europe with a team of 30 across verticals in production services, feature films, events, strategic consulting and a creative cell. It plans to open another office soon in Delhi.
Apart from sports production, Greymatter has done well with its non-fiction format slate too. Remix - an original music show format - has been licensed to south east Asia broadcasters in Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines and optioned in three European countries. This apart, it has co-produced 52 episodes for French comedy producer Novovision, while two of its travel shows (Sunset to Sunrise and Heads or Tails) are being distributed by Off the Fence globally. Then two of its formats have been licensed to Sparks Eccho Rights for global distribution.
The self funded company is now trying to make the most of the digital medium and fiction content on TV and films, reveals Sarangi.
Going by its track record in sports TV production and TV formats, it might score well on those fronts too.