[FICCI FRAMES IN FOCUS] Catalysing the Indian Sports Economy through Broadcasting

By

Varun Ramdas, Legal Analyst, Koan Advisory

Light-touch regulation is the key to cutting through the clutter of customers and the development of the sports broadcasting industry”

  • Matt Kurlanzik, 21st Century Fox

The global market for sports generated around USD 700 billion, or one percent of global GDP in 2014 (KPMG). A 2019 report in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health valued India’s sports market at only USD 2.65 billion – indicating a large upside that is yet to be tapped. Sports-broadcasting contributes a major share to India’s sports market, through sale of broadcasting rights, sponsorships, and creation of private leagues. Therefore, realising greater value in the Indian sports market is contingent on growth of sports-broadcasting.

Unfortunately, India’s sports-broadcasting industry currently suffers from excessive legislation that throttles current market value. For instance, the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007, mandates sharing of private signals of events of ‘national importance’ with the public broadcaster. This leads to the erosion of private broadcasting revenues. Importantly, the legislation does not set any guidelines defining ‘national importance’, often leading to ad-hoc decision-making.

Incongruent Interests

At a FICCI Frames panel titled “Sportsonomics”, Vinit Karnik, Business Head – Entertainment, Sports & Live Events, at Group M, highlighted that the Indian Government’s approach towards sports-broadcasting is imbalanced.  In particular, industry-stakeholders seek a balance between enhanced consumer-access, and value-generation through sports-broadcasting, which should ideally complement each other. Panellist Nitin Kukreja, CEO of IQuest Enterprises, stressed the need for a comprehensive framework that outlines objectives and details implementation of the mandatory sharing law. This would imbue the legal framework with required predictability. John Medeiros, Chief Policy Officer of the Asian Video Industry Association highlighted that consultative rulemaking processes, along with regular impact assessments of legislative frameworks, will help strike a greater balance.

Ad-hoc Decision-Making

Chintamani Rao, a media expert, pointed out that predictability of rules is a necessary precursor to greater investments in the domestic sports industry. Citing instances of unpredictability in rulemaking, he highlighted that notifying stakeholders about events of national importance is often done just weeks prior to the scheduled broadcast. Still further, there appears to be no apparent transparency around this process. Matt Kurlanzik, Director, Government Relations, Asia, 21st Century Fox, added that “ad-hoc regulation throws a wrench into the sports broadcasting machinery which functions with the expectation of revenue flow from a particular event”.

Another legacy issue in India’s sports-broadcasting ecosystem stems from government ownership of much of India’s sporting infrastructure: stadiums can be commandeered for various events, particularly by various state governments. According to Atul Pandey, Chairman, Sports Live Entertainment, this inevitably leads to the de-prioritisation of events run by non-government stakeholders, which in turn, creates a barrier to the growth of private leagues.

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