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Sony television arm, partner to invest up to  million over the next five years in the upcoming pickleball league
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Sony television arm, partner to invest up to $10 million over the next five years in the upcoming pickleball league

NEW DELHI :Sony Entertainment Talent Ventures India (SETVI) and Natekar Sports and Gaming (NSG) have teamed up to serve up a new sports extravaganza for India – the World PickleBall League (WPBL). With an investment of approximately $10 million over the next three to five years, the league is expected to debut in late 2024 or early 2025.

Gaurav Natekar, former tennis executive and owner of NSG, said the investment will not only help launch the league in India but also boost the growth of pickleball in Asia.

The collaboration aims to promote the development of the sport from grassroots to professional level, he said in an interview with Mint.

Dating back to the 1960s in the US, pickleball is a racket sport that incorporates elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, and takes up only a quarter of the space of a tennis court. It has recently gained popularity in the sports world.

Also read: Put Pickleball aside, America’s new local battle is beyond cricket

In February, SETVI and NSG signed a ten-year licensing agreement with the All India Pickleball Association (AIPA), which is affiliated with the International Pickleball Federation (IPF). Natekar will have a majority stake in the league, with SETVI becoming the “first investor”.

SETVI, owned by Sony, is an entertainment company specializing in media ventures, as well as providing technical support and strategic investments to promote sporting events.

“We are committed to supporting innovative sports companies. Our partnership marks a step towards creating new opportunities in the sector. We will drive the growth of this sport and expand its reach among audiences,” said Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO of SETVI.

SETVI is not the first sports channel to set up a sports competition as a partner. In 2014, Star India had acquired a 74% stake in Mashal Sports, which founded the Pro Kabaddi League. Star also collaborated with IMG Reliance to launch the Indian Super League football event.

Pickleball could potentially reach 30 million middle- and upper-middle-class Indian households, Natekar said. “There are already many tennis, badminton and table tennis players around the world who practice this sport. It is quite easy to learn. It is age and gender agnostic and is a “new-age” sport. should make it more relevant to those who watch it,”

Also read: After rejecting Zee, Sony sets sights on aha

“Sports like this do not require large investments to become a success on television.” The competition will be streamed live on television to further develop the sport, Natekar added.

League to involve 6 teams and adopt a city model seen at similar sporting events

The competition will involve six teams, each consisting of five to eight players, and will adopt the city model seen at similar sporting events. While SETVI and NSG are exploring a format with both international and domestic players, finer details such as age, gender and other operational aspects are yet to be finalized.

“The game is evolving very quickly, so we have to look at everyone’s interest if we make it to the competition.” Franchisees are expected to be profitable in the third or fourth year, he said.

AIPA, a non-profit organization that functions as the governing body of Pickleball in India, organizes national and local pickleball events. According to APIA, there are about 8,000 registered players and about 35,000 amateurs in India, which is expected to reach 1 million within five years.

Pickleball is endorsed by Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Selena Gomez, Emma Watson, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, John McEnroe, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Serena Williams.

However, apart from cricket and kabaddi, most leagues have struggled to attract significant viewership in India. According to a recent GroupM report, titled Sporting Nation: building a legacyWhile expenditure on sports sponsorship, endorsement and advertising has increased significantly in India, it is skewed towards cricket.

While spending on sporting events has increased enormously 2,423 crore ($564 million) in 2008 15,766 crore ($1.9 billion) by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate of 13%, the Indian Premier League (IPL) alone was responsible for 13,701 crore, or 87% of last year’s expenditure.

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