Television audience ratings will establish the fact that WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) remains the most-watched sports in India after cricket. When there is no considerable cricket on Sony Sports Cluster screens, WWE broadcast has kept the SPNI Sports channels in the top five sports genre charts in the Broadcast Audience Research Council television ratings.
The integrated media organization and recognized leader in global sports entertainment is further trying to strengthen its market in India. As the WWE broadcast rights will be coming up for renewal in the Indian territory, the management will be eyeing to have a major push in the highly competitive market. WWE, after cricket, are the rights each broadcaster will be keen on. Incumbent, Sony Pictures Network India will like to retain it at any feasible cost.
The WWE top brass has camped in India to explore and strengthen the market with the Tryout sessions – largest not just in India but in the history of the WWE – to scout for new talent who could become future WWE superstars.
Tryout at a large arena in Mumbai had two rings for the 80 selected aspirants (60 men and 20 women) going through various drills as part of the selection and filteration for the next round. The aspirants were picked after a rigorous six-month recruitment procedure. From the 80, selected few will fly to the WWE Performance Centre in Orlando, Florida, for further training.
Experts are seeing the Tryout and on-ground activities like flying-in WWE legends to India as attempts to up the media rights values.
The India broadcast rights of WWE Smackdown, RAW and its special events was retained by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited’s (ZEEL) sports network, Ten Sports for a period of five years ending 2019. Sony Pictures Networks India have bagged the deal with the acquisition of Ten Sports from Subhash Chandra’s ZEE in 2016 for $385 million (₹ 2600 crore). The deal has seen all the Ten Sports’ content, including WWE. In 2014, transferred to the SPNI. Ten Sports had reportedly renewed the media rights for $45-50 million for five years.
“We have launched our CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) website www.wweshop.in where we are creating different products, customised for India and for Indian consumers, localising your opportunity base,” Brody says, adding, “We see tremendous technology growth happening in India and an opportunity for more consumers to get closer to WWE through Sony, through the changing landscape of telecom.
“We have 386 million unique viewers in India annually. The Hindi telecast on Sony Max gets 26 million viewers every week. India is the number one market with monthly active Facebook users, higher than any other country in the world. India is also our number one market in our annual YouTube viewership.”
Rajesh Kaul, chief revenue officer, distribution and head – Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India, adds, “WWE is the second most viewed property on sports networks after Cricket and enjoys a huge following. It possesses the right mix of action and drama that attracts viewers across demographics.
“In the last few years, we have seen steady growth for contact sports and wrestling in Hindi-Speaking markets like UP, Gujarat, Delhi etc. We further strengthened our commitment of making international sports accessible to a larger set of audiences by launching Hindi commentary for WWE matches in 2018. Along with RAW and Smackdown, Hindi commentary was also made available for the Live pay-per-view events. This initiative has led to considerable growth in ratings, with 172 million viewers sampling the Hindi feed for WWE on Sony TEN 3.”
WWE managed to up the price of the media rights by more than three times in the US; but it realistically seek only a 100% raise in India.
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