'Television has brought life back to many sports that were waning on account of declining viewership'


Sports in India today is no longer a leisure activity to be played or watched at one's own convenience.

With an increase in exposure through television as well as new technologies like the internet and the mobility space, sports has become a full fledged industry in its own right. This trend is reflected in increasing number of corporate organisations who have realised that the target audience for their product/services are better reached through the medium of sports - the passion of a sports fan today is therefore being tapped in newer ways with every passing day.

So much so that even non-conventional businesses and companies with smaller pockets are increasingly looking at leveraging opportunities with sports as a medium to further their business goals.

Though cricket still remains the No.1 sport in India, in recent times, there has been growing interest in non-cricket sports like hockey, soccer, tennis and golf, which has provided options for corporates to find out which sport resonates with their target audience. Looking at the sheer numbers, there has been a significant rise in sponsorships and advertising across all the sporting disciplines.

As the sports fan becomes more discerning, the consumption pattern of sport is also changing - today's fan is not happy with whatever is on offer.

This has seen the growth of interactive broadcasting, quality opinions on air and innovative features which add more impact to the event coverage. This trend is healthy and I expect that in the years to come this will lead to a more specialist approach catering to the individual fan.

Another heartening fact is that national level tournaments in non-cricket sports are also gaining in stature with increased viewership, leading to more sponsors and advertisers. Events like the Premier Hockey League (PHL), which is now in its fourth edition, have made a mark not just as a quality national event but also garnered sufficient international interest through its high quality offering of entertaining, end-to-end hockey. I believe the years to come will be even more exciting.

Where does India stand in the global sports business, and where are we headed?

To my mind, while we have indeed come a long way, India is still a small player compared to countries like the USA, China and West European nations, in terms of global size. But the potential has been clearly recognised and with every passing day the outlook seems brighter.

To reach the next level, we need to get international sporting events and tournaments like Commonwealth Games and Men's Hockey World Cup staged in India. This will not only boost viewership but also unlock the vast marketing potential to international sponsors.

This will help the business grow to the next level. Such events will also provide a further boost to market India as a tourist destination. I am confident about the future - and I think if we can groom the available talent in non-cricket disciplines and create a few home grown superstars in basketball, soccer, tennis and golf over the next few years, there is no reason for India not to catch up with the rest of the world.

Another factor that has impacted sports and sports media is the Indian economy. It has been booming over the past few years and its ripple effect is being felt in every industry, including sports. With more money flowing in and increased purchasing power leading to more spends, sports has also been cashing in a big way.

Over the last decade, television has especially influenced the growth of the business of sports. It ensures greater reach across the country, more eyeballs / viewership per match, and, thereby, larger sponsor interest. This has also helped create the base for a host of affiliated businesses to thrive as well sports marketing agencies, celebrity management firms, et al.

But, more than anything else, what seems most important to me is that television has brought life back to many sports that were waning on account of declining viewership. It has helped provide a stage for the enormous talent that exists in this country of more than a billion people - and hopefully this will help create many more Sania Mirzas and Vishwanathan Anands in the future.

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