The inaugural season of the Pro Volleyball League will be broadcast by Sony Pictures Networks India in February 2019, organisers announced on Thursday.
Sony has signed a multi-year deal with Baseline Ventures, which owns the league, to broadcast all 18 matches live across its sports channels in India. The matches will be played across two indoor venues in India, which are yet to be announced.
The league will give budding Indian athletes a platform to hone their skills and compete against some of the leading players from across the world, the organisers said in a press release. While the number of teams is still to be announced, players from all member nations of the international volleyball federation, FIVB, will be allowed to feature.
Teams will be allowed to pick Indian players from an auction, which will be held later this year, while the foreigners will be recruited via player draft. The league has been officially recognised by the Volleyball Federation of India.
The Pro Volleyball League was initially supposed to kick off in October this year, but has now been pushed to February “to allow for a good and clear broadcast window”, according to CEO Joy Bhattacharjya. One of the reasons for this postponement could possibly be the hugely popular Pro Kabaddi league, the sixth season of which begins on October 5. Pro Kabaddi is owned by Sony’s competitor Star Sports.
“Volleyball is an extremely popular sport in key markets like South and North India, producing world class players,” said Rajesh Kaul, president of Sony Pictures Networks India’s sports and distribution business. “At SPN our focus has always been to promote a multi-sport culture in India and Pro Volleyball League is the perfect addition to our sports portfolio,” he added.
Ramavtar Singh Jakhar, former India player and secretary general of the Volleyball Federation of India, believes volleyball will “soon become one of the most followed sport in India” once the league commences.
The Pro Volleyball League is the latest franchise-based league to pop up in India after the Indian Premier League (cricket), Indian Super League (football), Pro Kabaddi, Ultimate Table Tennis, and Pro Wrestling League, among others.