Gone are the days when Indian sports was all about cricket. In recent years, India has witnessed an increase in interest in sports other than cricket, thanks to the emergence of a number of sport leagues such as Indian Super League (ISL), the football tourney; Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), and Premier Badminton League (PBL), to name a few, as per a recent report by brokerage firm ICICI Securities. Another report, titled ‘Sporting Nation in the Making’ by ESP Properties, the sports and entertainment programming specialist arm of GroupM, and SportzPower, a sports portal, states that sports sponsorship grew by 19.33% to Rs 6,400 crore ($941 million) in 2016 from Rs 5,363.3 crore ($825 million) in 2015. While on-ground sponsorship grew to Rs 1,165.2 crore in 2016 from Rs 1,030.5 crore in the previous year, team sponsorship increased to Rs 699.6 crore from Rs 558.2 crore. While franchise fees jumped to Rs 548 crore from Rs 541.3 crore, endorsements went up to Rs 476.4 crore from Rs 416.4 crore in 2015.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) continued to be highest earning sports tourney in terms of both ratings and revenue. As per the report by ESP Properties, IPL mopped up Rs 1,020 crore ($150 million) in ad sales revenues for Sony Pictures Network India, thus posting an over 25% jump over 2015.
As for kabaddi, it could well be termed the breakout story in the sports business. “The decision by Star India, Pro Kabaddi League’s (PKL) principal owner, to have two seasons in 2016 worked in its favour. On the back of a two-season PKL and India’s hosting of the World Cup in Ahmedabad, on-ground sponsorship grew by 154%, enabling kabaddi to drive past football as the number two game in India,” explained analysts in the report.
It should be noted that on-ground sponsorship revenue increased by 154% with kabaddi as a sport generating Rs 122.0 crore ($17.94 million in 2016, up from Rs 48 crore ($7 million) in 2015. The Kabaddi World Cup generated approximately Rs 20 crore as sponsorship revenue, with Amazon, Patanjali, Syska, Volini, Thumbs Up, Skill India and Nissin investing in the game as sponsors. As for PKL, the league in total, with two seasons put together, generated `100 crore with 15 central sponsors on board, six of which stayed invested across both seasons.
While kabbadi gained both advertisers’ money and spectators’ support, India’s very own football tourney — Indian Super League — suffered a setback in terms of 25% drop in spectators at match venues. In total, 1.28 million people attended 61 matches that made up the ISL tournament, with average game attendance for the tournament down to 21,003 in 2016 from 26,376 in 2015. On the money front as well, football posted a negative growth of 3.9%, as revenues earned from ground sponsorship stood at Rs 109.5 crore in 2016 against Rs 114 crore in 2015.
The ICICI Securities report further points out that among these home grown sports leagues, 21st Century-owned Star India has rights to a majority of these leagues, including cricket and non-cricket properties. The company holds rights of all major cricketing events such as ICC and BCCI events and now even IPL. In September this year, Star India bagged the global IPL media rights for Rs 16,347.5 crore for five years. Additionally, Star India has rights for key sport leagues such Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), India Super League (ISL), Premier Badminton League (PBL) and Hockey India League (HIL), among others. This largely leaves Sony with rights for international football, tennis, basketball and some cricket boards via its acquisition of Ten Sports, apart from leagues such as Premier Futsal League, Football and Pro Wrestling league.
Moreover, early this month, the Supreme Court restrained Prasar Bharti from giving live feed of sport events of national importance to cable TV and private direct-to-home (DTH) platforms. “With sport viewership in India largely dependent on cricket, we believe the ownership of IPL and key BCCI rights puts Star India in a position of advantage,” observed analysts.
As both Star India and Sony Pictures battle it our against each other, with other broadcasters such as Discovery also entering the sports broadcast market, apart from video OTT platforms like Veqta, which claims to stream 6,000 hours of live sports, analysts at ESP Properties and SportszPower, as well as ICICI Securities, expect 2017 to be even better for the sports industry.