MUMBAI: The ancient sport of Kabaddi has caught the attention of broadcasters in India. However, taking the sport to the world is Greymatter Entertainment’s Wave World Kabaddi League (WKL) that is all set to kick off on 9 August at the O2 arena in London.
Indian sports broadcaster Sony Six which has bagged the telecast rights for the league in India is very enthusiastic about it. Sony Six business head Prasana Krishnan says that the channel wants to establish credibility of the sport first on television and then focus on increasing viewership.
Krishnan expects WKL to be popular in the northern belt of India especially in UP and Punjab where the circular styled format of the game is more prevalent. To add to it is the presence of celebrities Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha and Yo Yo Honey Singh as team owners. “This format has never been seen on TV. The style of kabaddi followed in WKL is more physical, contact driven and fast paced,” he informs. According to industry sources the channel may have bagged the broadcast rights for Rs 35 crore to Rs 50 crore.
Pre and post analysis of the games will be recorded in Hinglish, produced at the venue itself. As reported earlier by indiantelevision.com Greymatter Entertainment (which was awarded the contract to produce the league) 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.
WKL follows a travelling format similar to Formula 1 and will be played at 15 international venues with 86 matches over a four month long period. 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 Indian prime time.
Will the duration create a fatigue problem for viewers? Krishnan brushes away the doubt by saying, “International football leagues too have a similar long format and have done well. It will be travelling from city to city and since it will be telecast over the weekends I am hopeful it will do well.”
As part of the promotions, TVCs featuring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha are being played on MSM network channels including English GECs AXN and Sony Pix as well as on the YouTube channels. Social media is not ignored.
Not surprisingly, the marketing campaign is focused towards the northern belt of India with print ads in both vernacular and English newspapers. Radio spots have been bought on stations such as Radio Mirchi, Big FM and My FM. Outdoor hoardings adorn metros like Mumbai and Delhi which will see an increase once the league enters the India phase.
Sony Six is also playing wait and watch to see how both local and international markets react to television’s new found sport. The broadcaster wants to monetise once the league comes to India after the first two rounds are held abroad. The channel for now has ads from companies such as the Wave group which is the title sponsor. An industry source says that a 10 second slot during prime time can cost anywhere between Rs 15000 to Rs 20000.
Sources peg the title sponsor price to be approximately Rs one crore to Rs two crore. Sonalika International is the official partner and Li Ning Company is the official apparel partner.
As to what Six has learnt from the ongoing Pro Kabaddi League Krishnan says, “The games have definitely been able to receive traction. Though the game is the same, the two can’t be compared as the rules, arena and the format are different”. He further goes on to add that findings have shown that the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi league seems to be a following a pattern wherein it is seen to receive maximum traction from west India as compared to Sony Six’s expectation from WKL to do well in the north.
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 beginning in 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.