"Smart monetization can generate good revenue from badminton": Prasana Krishnan

MUMBAI: Continuing the process of building a strong portfolio, Multi Screen Media’s (MSM) sports and entertainment channel Sony Six has acquired the rights of yet another event of international magnitude - the Yonex Sunrise Badminton Open.

The second super series of 2015, the Indian open is one of the flagship badminton tournaments with a prize money of $250,000. Renowned shuttlers will fight their way in Siri Fort Sports Complex, New Delhi to win the title.

India’s contingent is led by top seed and World number 2 Saina Nehwal. It is for the first time in the last four years that a non Chinese woman player sits in the pole position before the start of the tournament. The other X-factor in the tournament is Olympic Gold medalist and five time World Champion Chinese superstar Lin Dan, who will fight hard against Danish top seed Jan O Jorgensen and India's second seed Kidambi Srikanth to win the tournament and earn a Rio Olympic berth.

The tournament has potential of upsets and high expectations as both Srikanth and Jorgensen defeated Dan in the recent past. Moreover, World Champion Carolina Marin may face Saina Nehwal if both eves manage to qualify for the final. Such uncertainties are the main reason for Sony Six’s decision to showcase the tournament.

Sony Six business head Prasana Krishnan says, “We’ve been having this tournament since a good time and the main reason behind it is the fact that it is played in India. Whenever a sport is played in India, the fan connect is more and a badminton tournament involving Saina Nehwal, Lin Dan and others is certainly a big thing.”

Unlike cricket, badminton has a very limited space to fit in an advertisement during the course of the game. The fastest racquet sport of the world sees a mere one minute gap after 11 points when the players change court and hence making money from the sport is immensely difficult for the broadcasters.

“It depends on how you manage. While it’s true that badminton does not have equal room for monetisation as cricket but we also have to understand that the acquisition value is also comparatively low and hence if you smartly manage and monetize, you can generate good revenue from badminton and other non cricket sports too,” Krishnan opines.

Speaking on advertisers’ reaction to the tournament, Krishnan asserts, “We have got a good response so far. Our associate and co-presenting sponsors have been locked and we have sold out our inventory.”

Total Lubricants has been roped in as co-presenter whereas Yonex Sunrise is the associate sponsor on-air.

The acquisition is backed by marketing initiatives to generate awareness. “We have put ads on various channels of our network in order to back the asset and I am happy with the progress so far,” he adds.

Multi-lingual feed in sports is fast becoming a trend. Not long back the Syed Modi Badminton tournament was aired in both Hindi and English on Sony Six and Pal respectively. However, Krishnan said that there are no such plans for the 2015 Indian Open. “With Syed Modi we tried something, which we may execute again in the near future but Sony Pal will not be involved this time and the Indian Open super series will only be aired in Sony Six and we will stick to the world feed.”

IPL is knocking at the door and once the million dollar league starts, there are high possibilities of other sport properties of Sony Six getting suppressed by the glitz and glamour of IPL. When queried about the same, Krishnan says, “Yes there will be a lot of changes in the scheduling as the entire prime time is devoted to the IPL but that necessarily does not mean that other properties will get suppressed. We will use IPL, which is the biggest platform for promotion in India, to promote our established assets like Fight Sports, NBA and others. IPL actually benefits getting more viewers and complements the other sports that we have.”

2014 was a good year for Sony Six as it touched new heights in terms of garnering viewership. The year started with India playing New Zealand followed by IPL and the FIFA World Cup. Continuing the growth process, Sony Six started 2015 by hosting the Australian Open Grand Slam, which was followed by the Africa Cup of Nation football. “We are trying to grow bigger and whenever there is an opportunity to acquire broadcasting rights of an event of international importance, we will aggressively go for it,” Krishnan informs.

Badminton is the largest played racquet sport in the world and India is emerging as a strong contender in international events. However, the sports’ brand value was always under question. Commenting on the same, GroupM national director - entertainment, sports & live events Vinit Karnik says, “Badminton is a very popular sport in India. It is the only sport that is equally played by men and women. Having said that, the sport doesn’t deliver compelling ratings for advertisers to leverage its popularity. Popularity is restricted to follow the top three players, watching top three marquee matches only. Ratings only improve when Saina Nehwal plays her semis and finals. This needs to change for advertisers to look at badminton as a lucrative platform to promote their brands. Badminton as a sport needs aggressive marketing and more Indian players need to perform and win international marquee tournaments.”

Adding to that, Maxus ESP client leader Jigar Rambhia asserts, “Unfortunately badminton is not an advertiser friendly sport and therefore it fails to attract sponsors. Also, there aren’t many opportunities to advertise with very few breaks for advertising. However, of late, there have been some opportunities like branding on the net, court and perimeter boards etc. This might be able to get some sponsors, which in turn can bring in revenue to broadcasters. Since there aren’t many opportunities to advertisers during telecast, brands don’t look at badminton as a promotion platform. Though this might change, as Saina Nehwal is likely to be World No. 1 if she reaches the finals of the Indian Open. In case that happens, advertisers will definitely start looking at the sport more seriously.”

It remains to be seen if the Indian contingent in the super series successfully manages to overcome obstacles and win the prestigious title. The entire badminton fraternity will closely observe Nehwal as the World Number 1 spot is up for grabs. The crowd at Siri Fort will be biggest boost for Nehwal, even as Marin tries every possible option to block her progress.

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