Perhaps inspired by the increasing popularity of international soccer in a cricket-obsessed India, broadcaster Star Sports hopes to revive hockey's appeal in the country by significantly boosting production and marketing standards of the Hockey India League this year.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned sports channel plans to spend more than Rs 100 crore, or about four times more than the inaugural edition last year, on producing and marketing the annual hockey tournament to ensure an English Premier League-like experience.
It has roped in IMG, which handles the British football league, to do the production work, while graphics will be done by another international company, Prometheus.
"We want to create a multi-sport culture in India. Cricket is already big and we want to grow other sports like hockey as well," says Nitin Kukreja, head of sports business for Star India. "To do that production and how it looks on the screen is very important." While the coverage of an international Hockey World Cup match uses eight cameras to capture the on ground action, Star Sports will employ 20 cameras for the Hockey India League, which is modelled on the Twenty20 tournament IPL.
Six teams will participate in the HIL commencing January 25, with Orissa team Kalinga Lancers joining inaugural edition teams of Ranchi Rhinos, Uttar Pradesh Wizards, Jaypee Punjab Warriors, Delhi Waveriders and Mumbai Magicians. Star Sports has shot promos with each team to try boost its popularity.
It also plans aggressive marketing on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. On TV, Star Sports will use EPL-like studio, set and camera work. "It will be an EPL kind of experience right from the pre-show, analysis to the match itself. The stats, graphics, database will all be world class," Kukreja said.
In the last few months Star Sports has picked up several key sponsorships and deals in the Indian sports, starting with title sponsorship rights for cricket matches in the country. It then picked up one-third stake in a company - owned by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries and IMG - that is launching an Indian Premier League-style football tournament for Rs 2,000 crore.