American Football Will Become Bigger in India Than In America

By Rohit Ghosh
Image courtesy of EFLI Facebook
Image courtesy of EFLI Facebook

A remarkable $1.17 billion on average is what NFL teams are worth as of last season, according to Forbes. Even a team in a godforsaken market like the Cleveland Browns sold for nearly $1 billion in 2012. Given the NFL’s exponential growth in the United States over the past few decades, it is only logical to assume that American football will one day become bigger in India than it is now in the United States.

With a population of 1.2 billion people and growing, once American football catches on, viewership will surpass the U.S. viewership four times over. Former NFL head coach and investor in the EFLI (Elite Football League of India) Mike Ditka told Time that the Indian government feels that “[it] needs TV product over there.”

Outside of cricket, there is very little sports on TV in the country, which is why the Indian government pounced on the idea when it was introduced by CEO Richard Whelan in mid-2011. American football’s fanbase in America has helped to commercialize the sport and all its components. It has the largest share, about 13-14 percent, of the global sports market.

“Money comes from TV viewership; if you want to make money in India, you have to make sports that are TV-viewer worthy,” Richard Whelan, co-CEO of EFLI, said.

In preparation for season two, which kicks off later in 2014, EFLI hopes to take advantage of the potential television viewership in India — a $100 billion market. The league has partnered up with Ten Sports to provide live telecasts of games, including the kickoff event on New Year’s Eve in the second-largest stadium in the world, Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. which can hold up to 120,000 people.

Both EFLI and Ten Sports expect to break the record for the largest sporting event in one stadium with about 117,000 spectators. With 148 million television households (27 percent larger than the U.S. market), the NFL will one day become the little brother to the EFLI. “Our timing is dead-on, one day the Mumbai Gladiators will be worth more than the New York Yankees,” Whelan said.

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