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Exclusive | Strengthening deal with WWE, Ten Sports promises amusing content for Indian Market

As the sports broadcasting business, heats up with increasing  focus on non-cricket sports; Ten Sports has announced the extention of their television distribution agreement with WWE for five more years - 2015 to 2019. The partnership enhances WWE’s weekly flagship programming to include localized content, more languages and live events.

In addition to the continued broadcasts of WWE’s flagship programs Raw, SmackDown, NXT and monthly pay-per-view specials, starting January 1, 2015, Ten Sports will introduce a new one-hour fully customized version of Raw tailored specifically for the Indian audience and add WWE Main Event to its programming lineup. The channel will also air WWE content in multiple Indian languages for the first time and bring WWE live events back to India in 2015.

Adgully caught up with Rajesh Sethi, CEO, Ten Sports to know more about this deal, plans and strategies going further and more.

Speaking about the deal, Sethi said, “Our relation with WWE started in 2002 and this new deal is further signed from January 1, 2015 to December 2019 which extends our warm and healthy relationship for 20 years in total. Being rights holders since 2002, we have seen WWE grow over the years to dominate the sports entertainment space and we are really happy with the partnership as it will add new and incremental stuff to our relationship. We promise to deliver audiences more breakthrough programming and engagement opportunities in the years to come.”  

When asked about the line-up and plans ahead, he mentioned that the new content and programming is designed keeping in mind India and especially for Indian consumers. Adding further he said, “Another big change that the audience would see is that we would be getting WWE Main Event, which is one of the popular shows in US and it has never been telecasted in India.”

Apart from television, the channel is extending WWE to digital too. WWE will also be available on Tensports.com which is a first of its kind initiative for the audiences and is expected to add more value to both the brands. 

When asked about what importance does India as a market hold, Rukn Kizilbash, General Manager, WWE said, “India is placed at number 3 on WWE’s roadmap. It is one of the important markets for WWE and the sport has grown really well in this country. And I believe that this exclusive extension of our deal will surely make the brand (sport) reach and touch newer heights. The decision of getting 'Live events' in India will enhance the consumer engagement and will help us get closer to our target audiences thus building better connection.”

Alongside gaining prominence among the Indian audiences, WWE has also attracted a lot of brands and advertisers. Elaborating on the same, Sethi said, “It has been attracting a lot of advertisers and marketers but this change in the programming line-up is surely expected to add more value in the strategies of advertisers too. Also Smackdown and RAW are no more crazier fights but are rather equally fictional, which means that with fights the viewers get to see a lot of fictional drama too in the shows. And such things are making the sport connect globally and to a wider range of audiences, interestingly women too. Since the sport has started catering to wider audience, we thought of killing the deferment issue which was associated with RAW. The show telecasted in India is deferred by three days from its US telecast. So we are trying to take it as close as to LIVE cast for Indian audiences too.”

WWE has seen a lot of categories of brands getting associated with it. Elaborating further, Sethi said, “While there is no specific category of advertisers that comes on board for us but we have brands ranging from mobile phones to electronic companies to cosmetic companies to couple of FMCG companies and to sports companies.”

Generally perceived, WWE as a sport would have a lot of urban appeal but as told by Sethi, as per last year's numbers there were 498 million people watching WWE on TEN Network. This fact hence proves that WWE has a mass appeal. “WWE is one such sport which is not confined to metro specific or Tier II cities, it rather reaches to all the cities till Tier III. And LIVE events will undoubtedly add up to that reach", he said.

As this would be one of the first live event of this sort, sharing the challenges, Sethi explained that the entire eco-system will call for an update. "It cannot be done by one company. There will be a lot of challenges ranging from government approvals to infrastructure issues to security to money and a lot more but the team has started working in that direction already", he stated.

As we all know sports as a genre has different appeal and approach for the viewers and is one of the most competitive spaces with a lot of players, all running to grab the biggest share of the pie. Therefore, it becomes important to be alert and strike the right chord with the audiences. “Strategically, we are not a mono-sport centric channel hence we believe in getting the wider mix of content thus dividing our strategy to some prospects: sports entertainment (shows like WWE and legendary Football League fits there), Cricket, Soccer, Mix (wherein we have Asian games, Commonwealth games etc) and Tennis which surely speaks the wider range of audience that we cater to therefore trying to reach every corner of the possible segment rather than constraining ourselves to one sport", he shared.

Concluding the conversation, Sethi stated that Ten Network has always been passionate about getting newer sport content to India and this decision will surely add great value to its share of pie.

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