The coronavirus outbreak forced Poker Sports League (PSL), which is backed by Dabur India's Amit Burman, to go virtual for its third season. And when the league was back on ground for its fourth season, the Omicron wave delayed the tournament by a month. This impacted the league's overall revenue.
Pranav Bagai, CEO and Co-Founder, Poker Sports League said that pre-COVID the league had earned Rs 8 crore in revenue during the first two seasons. "But due to COVID there has been a drop of approximately 40 percent in revenue in the last two seasons," he told Moneycontrol.
While PSL's finale was initially scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka, the pandemic played spoilsport. "We had a hotel partnership for Season 4 (for finale) but COVID happened and we were thrown off," said Bagai.
A month's delay led to the league losing its title sponsor which affected PSL's overall revenue targets. "We were expecting to at least break even this season but due to the postponement on the 4th edition, we had to manage the Season 4 without onboarding any title sponsor."
But the league managed to cover 50 percent of expenses through different sponsorship deals for the fourth season.
Poker Sports League is now expecting to break even in FY23 during its fifth edition. "We will start making money from Season 6 onwards. After the last two online seasons, Season 4 was a good start to get everything back on track. We are expecting a 200 percent growth in revenue."
More than Rs 10 crore has been invested in Poker Sports League for all seasons so far. And Amit Burman is the key investor in PSL who aims to create awareness about poker as a mind sport as the game in India is still considered by many as gambling.
Bagai said that for the fifth edition of the league, the title sponsorship deal will be valued in the range of Rs 2.5-3 crore, up from Rs 1.5 crore for the first two seasons. During season 3, the title sponsorship value fell to Rs 80 lakh due to the league going virtual because of the pandemic.
Counting on Season 5 to boost the league's value, Bagai is in talks with over-the-top (OTT) and digital platforms to stream the league.
But the CEO said that while they aspire to sell media rights, Poker is currently a niche market. "Unless we see some real growth in terms of audience in the coming 2-3 years, we will not be able to sell media rights. But yes, once we see the popularity of the game growing, we will see good bidding coming our way by the OTT platforms," he said.
After streaming the fourth edition of the league on Voot, Bagai is looking at creating more content around Poker including fiction and non-fiction shows. "We are looking at launching one fiction and two reality shows," he said.
To popularise Poker, Bagai will also expand PSL into a city-league format. That's when the sponsorship game will change when local brands will start coming in, he said.