Treating new Pro League as a start-up, no hurry to monetise, promises CEO; big plan to develop national appreciation.
STAR India says it is not in a rush to monetise the Pro Kabaddi League, for which it is the official telecaster. The League is to be flagged off on July 26.
The League is promoted by industrialist Anand Mahindra and commentator Charu Sharma. It has franchise owners such as Radha Kapoor, daughter of Rana Kapoor, the chief of YES Bank; actor Abhishek Bachchan, media magnate Ronnie Screwvala and banker Uday Kotak.
"At STAR India, we believe in putting our energy and resources behind properties that tick four boxes - ambition, honour, bring value to society and have some commercial value," said Chief Executive Uday Shankar. "We know we are a long way off from monetising the Pro Kabaddi League. We are treating it as a start-up. We know it has potential and we know we'll have to wait and develop the League. I do not even have a sales team in place for the League."
He does not rule out the possibility that the inaugural season of the PKL would have no major sponsors backing it. Selling advertising spots might not be such a challenge, however, with the large base of clients the network has on its sports broadcasting platform.
The League will be telecast on STAR Sports 2 and STAR Sports HD2 in English and STAR Gold in Hindi. The Hindi movie channel is a market leader in its genre and commands a big viewership of male audiences in the Hindi heartland. This is also the main market for kabaddi viewership and, hence, having a Hindi feed on STAR Gold makes sense, says Shankar.
Similar to the Hero Hockey India League, the PKL will have graphics and animation during the matches to aid the viewer in understanding the game strategy. For this, STAR has hoied an agency named Prometheus. The advertising campaign has been created by Ogilvy & Mather. STAR says it intends to achieve complete penetration of the PKL among viewers with a three-phase TV campaign - a 'teaser' phase, a 'reveal' phase and a 'thematic' one. During each of these, the spirit of the game would be portrayed with the slogan 'Jeethta hai wohi jo haar naa maane' (The ones who win are the ones who persevere).
A comprehensive campaign would be run on this slogan across all platforms - radio, TV, on-ground and outdoor. The on-ground and outdoor campaigns will include tie-ups with shopping complexes and multiplexes. People would be invited to experience the game through virtual reality simulations. Obstacle courses would be set up to test speed, strength and agility of people, which would give them an idea of the key qualities needed for kabaddi. STAR had exposed the PKL to a large audience by revealing the campaign during the pre-match show of the cricket Test between England and India on Saturday.
The campaign aims to relate with the youth audience through new-age electronic music and highlighting of some spectacular moves in the game, like the back flip and lion jump. This is to change the perception around the game of being strength-dominated and to showcase other key skills, such as agility.
Stepping away from cricket's banyan tree
Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India talks to Business Standard about how there is a need to build sports infrastructure for kabaddi.
"If you look at America, and the top four or five sports it has, hardly any is played out of the country. In India, we have enough and more indigenous sports which can be very good broadcast properties. Sadly, till now, no broadcaster in the country has tried to develop a sport. Cricket was a popular sport and broadcasters picked it up. Similarly with tennis and football. There is a need to build a sports infrastructure for kabaddi, from equipment to stadiums.
With PKL, we want to develop a sport. I feel it is not healthy for a nation or its broadcasters to have only one sport. At STAR, our philosophy is to have cricket at the core, and develop as many other sports as possible.
We have committed ourselves to the sport; the rights acquisition fee was much lower than what we pay for cricket. The production cost would be at par or even more than what we spend on cricket. The only difference is, the returns we get on cricket will not be so on kabaddi in the initial years.
With PKL, we have had to get people from abroad to produce the sport for television. Ironically, there is no competent kabaddi producer (for television coverage) in the country, or the world over. So, we got international names who cover contact sports and prepare it for telecast on television.
It is, in fact, heartening to see another kabaddi league come up (referring to the World Kabaddi League announced recently). This means there will be more of the sport available on national television and it will help grow the sport."