Poker Sports League all set for a grand return

Pranav Bagai, CEO, Poker Sports League - InsideSport

Poker Sports League is all set for a grand comeback. There are more teams and a lot more to look forward to for the growing poker sports community in the country. The young, dynamic, energetic and an ardent Poker fan, PSL Chief Executive Pranav Bagai in association with his young, passionate team and stakeholders, is working relentlessly to take the league to the next level. In an exclusive chat with  Bagai shared his vision and plans for the league. These are the excerpts:

Insidesport:  After a successful launch in the inaugural season,  Poker Sports League is heading for a ‘bigger and better’ Season 2. Please share details? What will be the new strategies and innovations for the season?

Pranav Bagai: We were never ready to sit on laurels of launching a unique format for Poker Sport. We have been very clear about taking the league to the next level. That will be a constant and consistent philosophy. As for season two, much cannot be revealed at this stage. However, there will be improvements across the line for all aspects of the league – from live broadcast to fan engagement. PSL this year will be live on television. You will get to see a major difference in the way poker sport is produced for television  – both technically as well as with a perspective for better fan engagement.

IS: Who is your broadcast partner?

PB: There have been several interests. We are in talks with potential broadcasters. Teams are working on production and creative. We are very close to making these important announcements. At this stage, all I can guarantee is that the Poker Sports League broadcast will add a new dimension to the way sport is followed. The TV audience will witness the skills this sport requires and the excitement it creates.

IS: PSL this year is extended to 12 teams. When will you be announcing the two new teams?

PB: The deal for one new team is closed. The team is from Andhra Pradesh. A formal announcement will be made shortly. We are on the verge of signing the12th team – for Kolkata.

IS: How is the response from your new associates?

PB: The franchisee rights for the Andhra Pradesh team are sold out for a premium of INR 1 crore. The deal itself defines team owners’ interest. This is only going to grow bigger from here.

IS: The League in the inaugural year was limited to one event, one city, one vessel. Do you have any plans to make it a multi-city competition?

PB: The finals, scheduled over six days, will be held at one location. The online qualifiers will be starting from December 15. The live qualifiers, coming up later in the month, will be played across four cities.

IS: Poker is not a traditional sport. There is no mass fan-base. How are you tapping into the market? Who is your target audience?

PB: When we talk about the poker community, we have just started to scratch off the tip of the iceberg. Poker sport is growing. In fact, it has already grown a lot.  The young people have moved past teen patti. The generation is more into playing poker online, as well as live. This is gaining popularity among young masses as a sport that requires extreme skills.

We are targeting the metro cities, English speaking youth. Anyone interested in any kind of card games, or rather any kind of mind sports finds poker as the game for them. India is full of very intelligent people who are mathematically oriented in playing. There is a lot about mathematics and poker here.

IS: Poker as a sport still needs a lot on the marketing front. How do you plan to create  that buzz?

PB: We are working on digital marketing campaigns. There are strategies for OOH promotions and you will also get to see attractive TV promos across various genres.

IS: On the commercial side, what are your revenue targets?

PB: Numbers are not revealed. However, we are very active on sponsorships. This will be the first season for live broadcast, so we are not relying much from media rights values. Next season onwards the league will have interesting media values. With broadcast, the league will be monetizing all available streams.

IS: What will be the sponsorship base? Are you going in the market? What is the response of the brands?

PB: We are reaching out to the sponsors. We have a team workshop this week where all the team owners are coming for a sponsorship and marketing meet. Then we will make conclusive pitches to potential sponsors. We are ready with the strategy and packaging to hit the market.

IS: What are the long-term goals? What targets have you set for yourself in terms of POKER growth as a SPORT?

PB: Our mission statement is in very simple points. First, we aim to sportify poker and explain to the nation that poker is a game of skill. Secondly, we want to be the leaders in the poker sport. There are other leagues. There is so much happening in poker. PSL is targeting to be the No. 1 entity in terms of anything to do with the poker.

And then, to ensure that anyone who touches poker, anyone who touches PSL, should have an excellent experience to establish a proud association with the sport and the league. Whether that association comes up at the qualifiers level or goes beyond to the main event.

IS: Raj Kundra has recently announced a POKER VENTURE (Indian Poker league – IPL). The event will be broadcast on MTV. Does this hamper your plans in anyway?

PB: Any competition is good. Nothing hampers our plan or product. In fact, what Raj is doing is great for Poker in India. The sport will be on television, there are sponsorships. Whatever Raj or we do will help the Poker sport and each other. We have different formats. We are not competing against each other.

IS: POKER as a category is very small. Do you foresee space for multiple products? Do you plan to launch any other event?

PB: Our qualifiers last for three months. This is followed by a month-long team selection process and then there are week-long finals. Thus, even if it is a one-single league, the calendar is long and engaging. However, there are plans to get into similar leagues for other mind sports and games.

IS: This PSL is Amit Burman’s brainchild. How actively is he involved in the LEAGUE affairs? What is his vision?

PB: He (Burman) does not get into day to day operations. But, he is very active at strategy and planning levels. He brings in huge value on board.