The 18th edition of the Asian Games has left Indian domestic leagues cramped for a window for the 2018 season. Mashal Sports has been professionally smart to take the lead in announcing the Pro Kabaddi League schedule for the next two seasons. The Vivo Pro Kabaddi League commercial rights holder has smartly avoided a clash of dates with the Jakarta-Palembang Games, leaving the other leagues in a lurch to find a schedule to the comfort of their broadcasters, sponsors, and commercial associates comfort.
The 13-week PKL has been scheduled from October 19 for season six, a three-month delay in the conventional calendar for the league. With the Asian Games scheduled between August 18 and September 2, none of India’s Olympic discipline top players will be free before the second fortnight of September. PKL by announcing the October 2018-January 2019 dates has assured itself of quality players, prime broadcast windows and in turn smart commercial conversions. The season VII will be back to the original July schedule.
The Indian Super League, struggling for desired viewership numbers, will have to compete with kabaddi, the other Star India interest, for the prime time eyeballs at least for three months – November-January.
The scare for the Pro Wrestling League and the Premier Badminton League is bigger. The two leagues will struggle to find a schedule suitable to their respective broadcasters, sponsors, and commercial partners.
The new Badminton World Federation calendar and rules, which make it mandatory for the top-ranked players to participate in a minimum of 12 Open tournaments in a year, will also pose a serious threat for the league to draw an attractive field. The players will find it tough to make any commitment to the league between the Asian Games and the World Series Finals in China from December 12 to 16. In such a scenario, scheduling will be one big headache for the league commercial partners and the Badminton Association of India as the broadcaster partner Star Sports will have the ISL and the PKL on its priority list.
The wrestling league, which has attracted good numbers on tube from rural India, will be in for some tough competition from kabaddi. The two sports have the same targeted audience. Next year the kabaddi league will give the mat sport a run for its money with Star Sport’s better marketing strategy and broadcast production.
The inaugural edition of the boxing league too is being scheduled by the year-end, leaving India’s domestic leagues calendar more cramped than ever before. The scenario will make the sphere more competitive for the broadcasters and the leagues. The brands will though have better options and a competitive rate card. Albeit, at the cost of compromising with the desired reach to their targeted audience.
International cricket will also post a tough challenge to the domestic leagues for broadcast ratings, marketing, and sponsorships. The Caribbean Team will be in India during October and November for three Tests, 5 one-day internationals and one T20 international. The tour as per the FTP is scheduled from October 1 to November 14. As the Caribbean team heads home, India will fly out to Australia for a full Test series.
The packed international cricket itinerary also means the domestic leagues will be played under the shadow of cricket. For once, the competition may not augur well for all the stakeholders.