ESPN Star Sports is to provide live television and digital coverage of next month's inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL), after seeing off bids by broadcast rivals Sony Television and Ten Sports, according to local media.
The new franchise league will run from 14-31 August 2013 in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow and Bangalore, and will reportedly be televised across India and countries across Asia by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Star TV and ESPN joint venture.
"I'm not going to hide the fact that it was very difficult to get this [league] off the ground," Ashish Chandda, CEO of IBL organiser and marketing company Sporty Solutionz, told Live Mint.
"For 12 months we had a team of 40 people going from pillar to post to get these six teams going ... But here's the satisfying part – we've got three companies as team owners who've never invested in sports before."
The Sahara Group, owner of Lucknow Warriors team, has previously invested in a variety of sports from cricket to boxing, while Dubar, which owns Pune Pistons, already claims a team in the Hockey India League as its own. The Krrish Group, a real estate company from Delhi, has never before invested in sport, and nor has film financier PVP Ventures.
Prasad V Potluri, chairman and MD, PVP, told Live Mint: "We were convinced that there is huge potential in badminton and in this tournament with its eclectic mix of international stars and its crisp format."
Each team will have ten players, comprising six Indian professionals, four foreign players and one a junior Indian player. There will be two men's singles, one women's singles, one men's doubles and one mixed doubles match in the IBL, with players battling it out for a million dollars in prize money.
Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta, president, Badminton Association of India, said: "A generous amount has been spent on Indian players by the franchisees, which is a very positive sign for the Indian players and the sport as a whole."
India's top badminton player and Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was bought by her local team the Hydrabad Hotshots for $120,000 at the auction on 22 July. The highest price paid was $135,000 for Malaysian men's singles star Lee Chong Wei by Mumbai Masters.