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Now, broadcasters vie for the hockey pie

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on August 01, 2012

India losing to the Netherlands in hockey at the Olympics may have disappointed fans, but not the broadcasters. A new battle seems to be emerging to grab broadcasting rights of the game back home, with ESPN Star Sports signing on for rights for the soon-to-be-launched Hockey India League.

This follows on the heels of the joint initiative between the Indian Hockey Federation and Nimbus Sport, who have teamed up for World Series Hockey.

Ten Sports, too, has entered into a long-term partnership with the International Hockey Federation to acquire broadcasting rights for the major FIH Championships (Champions Challenge and Champions Trophy) till 2014. As part of the deal, Ten Sports will broadcast over 50 India-playing matches for the next four years, from major men’s hockey tournaments from around the world.

Incidentally, in Olympics history, hockey alone has provided 11 medals (eight Gold, one Silver and two Bronze). India bagged its last gold medal in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but has not won any major title in the last 32 years.

With sports broadcasters vying with each other to grab rights, hockey might just get the much-needed boost. Though all the three sport channels (Ten Sports, Nimbus and ESPN) aim to drive the popularity of India’s national sport in a country where cricket is almost a religion, World Series Hockey and Nimbus appear to have the first-mover advantage.

Nimbus has been promoting cricket in the country for several years. Over two years ago, it decided to focus on other games like hockey and golf. So did ESPN.

With the new deal, ESPN has renewed its association with hockey. In 2005, the sports channel was associated with Premier League Hockey, which died a premature death without the right business model. This time round, Hockey India League (HIL) is set to kick-off its first edition in January 2013.

For ESPN, it “makes the bouquet more complete. There is traction for hockey”, said a spokesperson. The channel now has cricket, motor sports, golf, soccer and hockey.

The deal envisages that ESPN Star Sports will cover all international hockey test matches under HIL to be played in India for the next five years.

Narinder Batra, Secretary General of Hockey India and Chairman of HIL, said, “We have a clear vision, to revive the glory days of hockey in India and drive the game’s popularity across the country.”

Though a certain amount of rivalry exists between the sports channels, with observers noting that the existence of two hockey leagues may result in fragmentation, some have termed the rivalry as “healthy, since it will grow the sport”.

amritanair.ghaswalla@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 01, 2012

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