Interview with Sony Six business head: "Badminton is one of the fastest growing sports in India and we want to be a part of it"
Every year the Yonex Indian Open badminton tournament brings together the world’s finest shuttlers to the country’s capital for a fight of monumental proportions. The only Indian singles player to have ever managed to notch up a victory on home soil is Saina Nehwal. However, with several budding Indian players being given wild-card entries, the tournament is the only chance for domestic stalwarts to compete against the world’s finest.
That being said, badminton is only a budding sport in the country, with matches involving icons such as Nehwal and P V Sindhu garnering viewers/spectators. Sony Six has been broadcasting both the marquee tournaments on the Indian badminton calendar, i.e Indian Open and the Syed Modi International badminton championship. In an attempt to expand their coverage beyond the realm of just cricket and football, the channel has been slowly building its portfolio and catering to the various niches in the country.
We sat down with the President of Sony Six India, Prasana Krishnan to understand the business model behind showcasing a sport such as badminton and also giving them prime-time slots.
Q. Sony Six has always been into holistic coverage of sport, but its content mostly encompasses the international realm. Do you think a sport like badminton can bring in the numbers?
Our attempt is to cater to every Indian sports fan, it’s important for people to watch India’s finest badminton players against the world’s best. Yes, we do cover a lot of global events, but from the perspective of catering to the Indian fan, it’s important we showcase the global contingent. It’s all about portfolio building.
Q. When it comes to badminton in India, people tend to watch the matches with the likes of Saina Nehwal, P V Sindhu, how will matches involving the likes of Lin Dan work for the channel?
Regardless of who is playing, we will showcase all the matches. Of course, there will be more number of Indian players participating and hence form a local point of view, the viewership for Indian games will be higher. But, we have to realise, the best in the world don’t come and play in India every day. The likes of Lin Dan participating will be an entertaining affair.
Q. Badminton is a growing sport, however, the IBL did not see the people turning out in numbers. Is that an indicator that it does not have the potential of being a spectator sport?
It’s a building up process, inherently India does not have a sports viewing culture. We have to create a focus, so people have a choice. It will be great if we can create the badminton market and then market it right.
Q. The Indian Open is a part of the 12 Super Series structure in badminton, will we see Sony Six venture into broadcasting the entirety of it?
Currently we are broadcasting only the Indian Open and the Syed Modi international tournament, but we are keeping our eyes open for other events as well. If and when it comes, the commercials will first be looked into and if viable, will be acted upon.
Q. Do you think the extensive Sony Six Indian Open coverage might actually fuel more people into watching the sport?
The viewership has systematically increased and also the excitement generated has become higher. Numbers are steadily increasing as compared to last year.
Q. As mentioned before badminton has not raked in the numbers as expected, since it has a prime-time slot, especially on the weekend. Is there a chance of it reducing the numbers as compared to some other sport?
The great aspect about badminton is that it’s the second biggest participatory sport in India, after cricket. People have played the sport at some point of their lives, hence the potential of relation exists. It’s also easy to understand and India has a lot of players participating at the highest level. So, I’m quite happy with the 2-7 afternoon/evening slot it’s got.
Q. Finally, what are the other events, we can look forward to from Sony Six in the near future?
Quite a lot of international events are there in the pipeline, also the Indian Premier League will start in a few weeks. So, basically IPL and a mixture of other sports, football, rugby, NBA and tennis will be our mainstay, but Sony Six is always out on the lookout to increase the size of their portfolio.