New Delhi: Buoyed by the success of private sports leagues in India, state broadcaster Doordarshan is planning to enter the business with not one but three different leagues—in basketball, tackle football (a modified form of American football) and kabaddi.
These properties, to be launched in a couple of months’ time, will be university sports leagues, played among students from various universities/colleges across the country.
Doordarshan has already initiated talks with an American company (which has expertise in the university sports sector), said Supriya Sahu, director general at Doordarshan, without divulging details about the company.
The idea, Sahu said, is to develop a public-private partnership in a bid to put in place a structure for university sports—beginning with the aforementioned sports and later expanding the format to others.
“DD Sports is in the process of reinvigorating the content of the channel and rebranding it to make it relevant for its target audience. Sports leagues are major content differentiators in the genre. It sees potential in university sports,” she said.
Once the leagues are in place, the plan is to air the zonal matches on the regional channels of Doordarshan and the finals on DD National. “However, all the matches will be aired on DD Sports. The leagues will be launched with a strategic publicity and promotion plan which includes cross-channel, print, radio and outdoor publicity,” said Sahu.
Globally, the university sports or collegiate sports sector is a multi-billion dollar industry, especially in the US, and is usually supported by local communities and led by either private companies or government bodies, according to multiple sports industry experts. In the case of some sports, it’s a pre-requisite for a player to have played university league tournaments to participate in national ones.
“The television rights for collegiate sports are widely contested for and are sold at huge prices in the US. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry. To replicate this in India is a great proposition by Doordarshan, only if it is marketed, promoted and produced well,” said Tuhin Mishra, managing director and co-founder of sports marketing firm Baseline Ventures.
Doordarshan is not the first broadcaster to try its hand at university sports.
In 2012, New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) came up with a university-level cricket league in partnership with Association of Indian Universities and the ministry of human resource development. The league was aimed at encouraging cricket at the university level but didn’t last beyond the first season.
Things may be changing with the presence of several sports leagues in the private sector. Besides, university leagues may have a dual benefit. First, these may help Doordarshan attract eyeballs and get audiences to watch non-cricket sports. Second, these may provide a platform to budding players.
“Most of the developed sporting nations have grown on the back of strong university league infrastructure. In India, there is no structure for someone who wants to become a professional football or cricket player,” said Vinit Karnik, business head of ESP Properties, the sports and entertainment arm of media buying agency GroupM.
“A sports league on a national level across multiple universities, led by a platform like DD Sports, would be a dream come true,” he added.
Sports sponsorship in India grew 19.33% in 2016 to touch Rs6,400 crore, according to a report titled Sporting Nation in the Making IV, jointly published by GroupM ESP, and SportzPower, a sports business news company.
Currently, there are six major sports leagues played across the country—Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, Pro Kabaddi League, Hockey India League, Premier Badminton League and International Premier Tennis League. Non-cricket leagues saw their franchise revenue growing 4.97% from Rs201.2 crore in 2015 to Rs211.2 crore in 2016.
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