Network promises to promote the sport in the long term. It will show Hockey India League on 3 of its channels, bring international tournaments and best production technology as it draws up a blueprint to bring the glory back to Indian hockey
Sohini Sen | Mumbai | January 24, 2014
Star India’s sports network – Star Sports – has announced an investment of over Rs 1,500 crore to promote hockey over the next eight years. This is a new beginning for Star Sports as hockey has never before seen global investment of this scale. Star India’s commitment to promote hockey is also being supported by Hockey India and the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
Nitin Kukreja, Head of Sports Business, Star India, said, “Our aim is to transform the sporting landscape and imbibe a culture of multiple sports in India. Sports broadcasters in India have traditionally invested only in cricket but shied away from committing such heavy investments in other games. We are putting money where our mouth is. We believe hockey has potential for growth but needs certain key ingredients to come together. We believe that a vibrant local league, international events in India including the 2018 Hockey World Cup, and world-class production are essential ingredients to popularise the sport and help nurture future champions.”
Star Sports will be telecasting the 2nd edition of the Hockey India League. These matches will be showcased in English in Star Sports 1 and Star Sports HD 1, in Hindi on Star Sports 3, and for the more technology savvy follower, on Starsports.com.
Showcasing ‘The New Face of Hockey’, Star Sports’ has invested over Rs 100 crore in the promotion and production of the 2nd edition of HHIL which starts in two days’ time. As part of the plan, Star Sports wants to bring the fan closer to hockey and explain it to the new followers. Star Sports has hired International Management Group (IMG) to produce the second edition of HHIL. Israel-based specialised sports agency, Prometheus, has been entrusted with the responsibility of developing cutting-edge graphics suitable for hockey broadcast. The broadcaster will use as many as 20 cameras for the very first time in the history of the sport for each and every match during the league – covering every piece of action on the Astroturf.
Viren Rasquinha, former India Hockey captain, said, “This will be a huge opportunity for hockey fans and players. We are in dire need of role models, heroes and idols. Everyone knows that for a revolution to happen any game needs a committed broadcaster like Star Sports who is in it for the long haul. A lot has changed in Indian hockey in the last two years post the introduction of HHIL. A lot of money has come in which is welcome news. Earlier, Indian players used to scout for opportunities to play overseas for different clubs. Now, the reverse is happening! India is bound to emerge as the hub of international hockey with one FIH event as well as HHIL happening every year. This is bound to have a positive impact on the fortunes of Indian Hockey and I can only anticipate the future with some element of pride.”
The studio team for the English telecast will be led by former BBC presenter Michael Absalom. For Hindi, Star Sports has roped in Vidya Malvade (of ‘Chak De India’ fame) as the lead anchor. Viren Rasquinha and AB Subbaiah will be the experts for the English studio while the same duty will be performed by Harender Singh and Tahir Zaman in Hindi.
Former Pakistan Hockey captain Tahir Zaman commented, “Hockey like cricket holds a lot of potential, especially in the sub-continent. Both Pakistan and India have been powerhouses in the sport, but while some of the other games like cricket made rapid strides, hockey got left behind. A large part of that was due to the fact, that one could not make a living out of the sport in the past and we played the game purely for the love of the game. However, now with investments by entities like Star Sports into the game and global leagues like the Hero Hockey India League, I see a bright future for our sport. This can only be good for the development of the game. At grassroot level, more and more people will aspire to pick up a hockey stick and serve the game. I foresee a bright future for the sport in the long term.”
Star Sports hopes that the marketing initiatives will show results as they have already been accepted. The response from advertisers has also been much more, compared to the last season. The campaigns include a TVC which is being shown on all Star Sports channels and the Star GEC network. Various campaigns have also been organised in each of the cities where the games would be played.
Star Sports will also try to engage with the audience in the hinterland. Hockey has remained a popular sport in smaller towns and cities in India and the network plans to cash in on that. As Kukreja said, “As we see it, the present situation of hockey is something we can either complain about or do something to change. We chose the latter.”
But will this be enough to stay ahead in the race while competing networks sign on international sports like basketball, tennis and football? Star Sports is not worried. “We welcome competition. I think there is a culture and scope of multiple sports and sports properties in India. We are focused with our efforts. We are investing Rs 1,500 crore in hockey and over a period of time you will see more investments in others sports as well,” said Kukreja.