MUMBAI: It wasn’t very long ago when the News Corp-owned media and entertainment leader, Star Network, committed to invest Rs 20,000 crore in building up the sports business in India. So while the investment was intended to fuel the expansion of sports coverage in the country, there were plans of building exciting new leagues including the Indian Super League (ISL) in football, the Hockey India League (HIL) and the Indian Badminton League (IBL) as well over the next few years.
Star India head of sports business Nitin Kukreja says: “Well, we at Star believe to put money where our mouth is.”
In a strategic announcement today, Star has pledged to push the envelope for the promotion of Hockey – India’s national sport - with an unprecedented investment of over Rs 1,500 crore over the next eight years. This is a never seen before commitment to Hockey, which would see Hockey India, International Hockey Federation (FIH) and Star India embark upon a journey to promote the game.
“The idea is to look at sports other than Cricket and try and bring a change in the sporting landscape. For the transformation in any sport to really come about it requires time, investment, innovations, ideas and the coming together of the ecosystem,” adds Kukreja.
The sports broadcaster is set to create a new global benchmark in Hockey broadcasting with the telecast of the second edition of HIL. Showcasing ‘The New Face of Hockey’, Star Sports’ has invested over Rs 100 crore in the promotion (Rs 50 crore) and production (Rs 50 crore) of the second edition of HIL which starts on 25 January, 8 pm onwards.
Such a big investment hasn’t been made earlier by a broadcaster in any local league, the exception being the Indian Premiere League (IPL). However, Star Sports intends to showcase Hockey like it has never been experienced before whether in India or globally.
Kukreja says: “In terms of making the right noise around the second edition of HIL, we are already getting a good response from advertisers. We already have Micromax, Dr. Ortho and Denver Deos as our sponsors and we are in final stages of discussions with other advertisers. We will certainly be having lot of spot buyers once the tournament kicks-off.”
Star Sports’ wants the HIL broadcast to be an immersive, engaging and pleasurable viewing experience for the Indian hockey fan. The idea is to take the consumer closer to the game and make them understand the game better. Star Sports has hired International Management Group (IMG) to produce the second edition of HIL. Israel-based specialised sports agency Prometheus has been entrusted with the responsibility of developing cutting edge graphics suitable for Hockey broadcast. The broadcaster will use as many as 20 cameras for the very first time in the history of the sport for each and every match during the league – covering every piece of action on the Astroturf.
“It gives us immense pleasure to be the home for the 2018 Hockey World Cup telecast. We will surely push the envelope in match coverage as well as get into in-depth pre and post match analysis to engage the consumer better,” expounds Kukreja.
Additionally, the viewing experience will get batter because Star Sports is treating HIL at par with international cricket. The league will be showcased not only in English on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports HD1, but will also be showcased in Hindi on Star Sports 3. Starsports.com will stream all matches live of the tournament for Hockey loving fans across the world.
Star Sports has erected a world class set for pre and post shows of the league. The studio team in English will be led by former BBC presenter Michael Absalom; while in Hindi, Star Sports has roped Vidya Malvade (of Chak De India fame) as the lead anchor.
The channel’s experts and sports commentary team comprises some of the most eminent names of Hockey. English studio team: Michael Absalom (anchor), Viren Rasquinha and A.B Subbaiah (experts); English commentary team: Ashley Morrison, Adrian D’souza and Amar Aiyama (lead); Sandeep Somesh, Ashish Ballal and Solomon Casoojee (experts); Hindi studio team: Vidya Malvade (anchor), Harender Singh, Tahir Zaman (experts) and Hindi commentary team: Sunil Taneja, Ravikant Singh and Mohit Gang (lead); Salman Akbar and Sameer Dad (experts).
“We are investing time and money in the hockey commentators to make them TV compatible,” says Kukreja, and further adds, “The Indian Hockey loving fan has always missed out on the kind of telecast quality that is generally experienced only in Cricket; well all that is about to change with this path breaking production standards that we have adopted for the very first time ever in the game of Hockey.”
Just looking at this edition of HIL, this will be the first time that 30 out of the 34 matches will be played at 8 pm which is the prime time viewing. The six teams that will be featuring in the tournament are: Dabur Mumbai Magicians, Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Ranchi Rhinos, Delhi Waveriders, Kalinga Lancers and Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
Kukreja further adds that nearly 70 per cent of the viewership comes from the Hindi Speaking Markets (HSMs) and the time spent (which generally shows the strength of the content) on the Hindi channel (Star Sports 3) is about 40 per cent higher, thus clearly indicating a higher stickiness quotient among these markets.
Star Sports along with IMG and Prometheus has already rolled out team specific music videos with peppy tunes and eye popping visuals capturing the essence of the cities the teams belong to. It is not just grabbing the attention of viewers, but is also creating the right noise with the tournament just a couple of days away.
“We believe that we have done our bit in the promotion of the sport and it’s now time that the entire ecosystem comes together and make the sport even bigger and reach a wider fan base. I really don’t see a reason why can’t India regain its glory in the sport that brought in loads of medals and recognition on the global platform,” Kukreja concludes.
Star India is certainly betting big on promoting the sports culture in the country. Now it’s only a matter of a couple of days to see how the viewers respond to this big gamble played out by the broadcaster. Play on!