`Sexy’ NBA a turn-on for Indian TV

MUMBAI, (Reuters) – Cricket’s position as India’s   most popular sport is beyond doubt, but an Indian TV channel   is broadcasting live NBA matches in the cricket-mad country,   convinced basketball can take the number two spot.
Earlier this month, the National Basketball   Association (NBA) signed multi-year deals with Taj Television   and Multi Screen Media (MSM) to broadcast games in India.
Under the deal, MSM, majority-owned by Sony Pictures, will   broadcast two live games a week on its English-language movie   channel PIX while Taj Television will broadcast two live games   per week on its Ten Sports channel.
“Cricket is number one but there is also a viewer fatigue   that is clearly settling in,” Sunder Aaron, channel head for   PIX, told Reuters in an interview.
“If you remove the top-shelf properties like IPL and you   look at the average cricket ratings through the year, you see   a steady decline (in viewership). I think because there’s so   much cricket, it’s cricket overkill.
“I think that fatigue, coupled with natural curiosity for   other sports, is going to lead to some other sports developing   and catching … fire. I believe that basketball will be one   of those sports.
“No reason why it can’t become the number two sport in   India and we certainly want to play a part in that.”
Indian fans will be able to watch a record number of live   games as a result of the deals, which are part of the NBA’s   expansion in a country with 1.2 billion people.
According to the Basketball Federation of India (BFI), the   sport has more than four million active participants in India.
While Aaron believes basketball can nudge ahead of other   sports to grab the spot after cricket, he admitted it was   going to be a “challenge” to sell the game in India.
“It’s a challenge for sure to market the game in India. We   have to be very shrewd and very savvy,” the executive said,   adding that he expected the deal will show a 30 to 50 percent   improvement on the time slot for the channel.
“It’s not going to be on hoardings and billboards to be   very frank. We have to make the effort and identify those   basketball playing communities and reach out to them.
“Hopefully it will not only attract new people to the   channel to watch basketball but also help increase the amount   of time spent per viewer on the channel.”
The NBA is the second sports property that is aired on Pix   after the FA Cup football.
“We thought having some limited sports on the channel is   beneficial. We are seeing great results from the FA Cup   football and we wanted to find another sport like that,” Aaron   said.
“When it comes to premium sports leagues throughout the   world in any sport, the NBA is right up there. It’s a   no-brainer for us to be involved with them. The NBA is sexy.”