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‘ISL and I-League will complement, not threaten each other:’ AIFF’s Kushal Das

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MUMBAI: The Rs 700 crore deal between All India Football Federation (AIFF) and IMG-Reliance, signed after the contract termination between AIFF and Zee Sport, gave IMG-Reliance the opportunity of kick-starting a new football league in India namely the Indian Super League (ISL).

The 15-year deal between AIFF and IMG-Reliance signed in 2010 will subsequently conclude in 2025. The deal gave IMG-Reliance exclusive commercial rights to sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting, merchandising, video, franchising, and rights to create a new football league.

Naysayers termed the emergence of ISL as a threat to traditional I-League but Television Audience Measurement (TAM) ratings for the 2014 -15 season sang a completely different tune.

I-League, which was telecast on Zee’s Ten Sports and Ten Action, garnered 79 TVTs in 2014-15 season which is 13 per cent more than 70 TVTs of the 2013-14 season. In terms of TVRs, the league registered 11 per cent growth in the current seasons.

Speaking exclusively to Indiantelevision.com AIFF general secretary Kushal Das says, “I-League’s growth this year is really encouraging and it proves what I have always been saying that both ISL and I-League will complement each other and there is no chance of one posing threat over other. This year the growth has been because of various reasons. Infrastructure played a vital role, quality of matches were good and the players wanted to leave a mark so that they could have a bigger opportunity and that’s where ISL helped. Overall, it has been a very positive year for the League.”

The conclusion of 2014-15 season also marked an end to the 10 year broadcasting deal with Ten Sports. The league had no advertiser on board in the current season. When asked if the network will bid again for the asset Ten Sports CEO Rajesh Sethi says, “I-League is an organised mechanism, which reflects the national interest. In England we have English Premier League and this edition of I-League has been a major encouragement. The interest level was high, we witnessed 20000 attendance in the final and football is more widespread across the nation now. So it’s no longer Bengal, Kerela and Goa… it’s all over the country. ISL at a macro level has increased the pie of football and all these factors make I-League an interesting prospect. Hence we will be of course going for it and see how things are.”

Football viewership in India was descending at a brisk pace till ISL came into picture. While in 2012 it was 137 GVTs, in 2013 it dropped to 127 GVTs. However, the emergence of ISL in 2014 heaped it up to a mammoth 215 GVTs, which is only second to cricket. Not only GVTs, in terms of cumulative reach, football in India reached to mammoth 637 million viewers, which forced advertisers to pay attention to the sport.

“The only way for football in India is upwards. The sport will witness a 360 degree growth. After the success of ISL, advertisers are looking at the sport with a different vision. I don’t know if I–League singlehandedly can turn out to be a highly revenue generating asset for broadcaster but overall if bundled properly, it may turn out to be an interesting prospect. However, having said that I feel that football will witness a holistic growth,” asserts a senior media planning expert.

It now remains to be seen which channel becomes the screen for I-League and if both the leagues can ensure prosperity at the same time. Overall after the 1950s, it’s the first time that football is becoming a prime force in the sports fraternity.

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