Sundar Raman feels there is no reason not to give sports commentary in different regional languages © Getty Images

Mumbai: Mar 14, 2013

The Chief Executive Officer of the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) Sundar Raman on Thursday, said having television commentary in regional language will help grow cricket in the country.

“To me, we take India as one large mass of audience. Cricket today is experimenting and there is a big opportunity.If you look at regional channels they are doing reasonably well and turning out numbers. There is no reason why you can’t hear a sports commentary in Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil or Marathi. To me, that is another opportunity to exploit,” he said at the FICCI Frames event.

Raman stressed on the importance of marketing and said, “Every sport needs to market itself well. We are a one-sport country and that is possibly because the one sport marketed itself well.”

“I was delighted to see the Hockey League coming on television. If you look at numbers, the opportunity for cricket is still large. The commentator needs to reach out to a man who doesn’t understand cricket and it can’t be a commentator talking to another commentator. You have to help grow the audience,” he said.

Raman said that dependence on advertising could lead to tinkering of formats which will impact the sport adversely.

“Cricket is an advertiser-friendly sport. Imagine if the football federation announces a commercial game after 15 minutes, the economy of football may double but it slows the game down.

“It doesn’t allow a market like India which is largely driven by advertising to help grow the sport because there is no advertising in football except the break in between the halves. My fear is that it should not lead to tinkering of the format which is not in the interest of the game,” he said.

Having spent over a decade with the advertising and marketing firm WPP group in India, Raman called for better streamlining of revenue in sports broadcasting and said the telecasters should not depend only on advertising.

“As long as one source of revenue is the only source of revenue that broadcasters today are leveraging, you will be playing in the hands of 15 power brokers. That will lead to a downward spiral. The more content you have the yield on each of those content will come down,” he said.

“Today, the amount of money in UK, US or even in South Africa or Australia that a broadcaster gets for subscription revenue when compared to that in India, considering the number of channels we have and the amount of content, it is really small. It is pittance. Unless you are able to get real value out of that particular piece of jigsaw, the cost factor will keep coming into play. We need to collectively put in efforts to try and make the visibility is monitored and adoption is faster. Until such time, you will always be in the see-saw of advertising. You talk about Olympics, the spends go up, you talk about recession, the spends go down,” he added.

Star India holds the rights for India’s international and domestic cricket matches and the company president Nitin Kukreja said, “Any sport is bucketed together. Irrespective of the cost of the sport, irrespective of the viewership of the sport. Distribution revenues become a challenge. Even monetising the new forms of content because technology evolves at a faster pace than the regulation does.”

Neo Sports Broadcast Chief Operating Officer Prasanna Krishnan said, “The revenue stream is not ramping up to the level we needed it to the distribution. We expected some of the initiatives like digitisation didn’t happen earlier. DTH explosion which happened in the last two years didn’t happen in the first two years when we held rights.”