MTV, the youth entertainment channel from Viacom18, is venturing into sports broadcasting by acquiring exclusive broadcast and digital rights of the second season of Super Fight League (SFL), the mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament. In its first season, the league was telecast on Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD. MTV aims at cementing MMA’s position as a mainstream sport with mass appeal in the global sports fraternity.
The Hindi GEC of Viacom18, Colors, had also telecast matches from SFL, between 2012 and 2016. The matches that Colors had telecast were in the format that had sportainment and each fight was preceded by 45 minutes of live Bollywood entertainment from Bollywood stars. However, the channels couldn’t push the property much and finally, the formal league that took place between January 20 and February 25, 2017 was telecast on Sony ESPN.
For the second season though, SFL has returned to Viacom18, albeit on its youth channel. This is not the first time that non-sports or entertainment channels are telecasting sports events. Sony Max had telecast the ICC Champions Trophy till 2007, while Indian Premier League took that channel after 2008. Star Gold too had telecast sporting events like Pro Kabaddi League and Indian Super League, alongside the sports channels of the network. Sony and Colors too, on different occasions had telecast the indoor cricket event – Box Cricket League.
These properties, IPL, ISL and PKL have always worked much better on the non-sporting channels on the back of sheer distribution, reach and promotions that they have. While Colors couldn’t do and gain much from SFl, it will be interesting to see the treatment that the tournament gets and lends to MTV.
The second season starts off in February 2018. The league is promoted by British businessman and sports enthusiast Bill Dosanjh and British professional boxer and two-time world champion Amir Khan. Boasting to have garnered over 100 million views in five years for 67 live televised events, SFL is ranked as the third biggest MMA brand in the world. The franchise-based league that is being organised in association with the All-India Martial Arts Association (AIMMAA) will entail prize money of Rs 4 crore as well as 96 players and eight teams.
Raj Nayak, COO, Viacom18, said, “MMA is a niche sport in India but one that’s gaining a lot of popularity. Through MTV’s association with SFL, we aim to popularise the sport and make it accessible to a much larger audience than it currently enjoys – the youth. We see a lot of potential in the sport and hope for a longstanding association with the league.”
Dosanjh, CEO and Founder, SFL, said, “MTV is the channel that resonates strongly with the youth of today and this association will help build the sport among the millennial generation and more participation from the youth. Having MTV as the broadcast partner will further augment our endeavour to reach the core population of India and make SFL a name to reckon with in the MMA fraternity in India. On the investment side, we have spent almost Rs 250 crore in the last five years and we are looking to invest a further Rs 200 crore over the next three years.”
Khan said, “India is seeing a progressive change with the focus shifting towards alternative sports. The MTV backing will provide the right ecosystem for the action sport to enter the mainstream population of the country and give it that universal appeal.”
Ferzad Palia, Head, Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, said, “The Indian youth is always looking out for something new and exciting, and when it comes to sports, they’re exploring avenues beyond cricket. MMA is a form of sport that not only enables one to learn the tricks of self-defence but instils great confidence in those getting into the ring. Since our target group, the youth of the country is constantly looking for something to inspire them, this is a great opportunity for them to learn. MTV Super Fight League is going to be a platform for young people to discover an exciting sport where they will learn that fighting is not just about being strong but also about being fit and being smart.”
MTV SFL 2018 will promote gender equality through a fair and unique platform with women having the same influence on the team as men. The league entails a group ‘A’ and ‘B’, consisting of four teams each. Every team has six players – five male fighters and one female – and six back-ups, belonging to six different weight categories. The teams within the group compete with each other in 12 league-level matches.
The second season of the leading MMA league will be conducted at MTV SFL Arena, Famous Studios, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai, from February 9 to March 17, 2018.