New Delhi: Come 4 and 5 October and Indian basketball fans will be in for a treat as popular American sports league National Basketball Association (NBA) will host its first pre-season games in India. NBA has partnered with online ticketing platform BookMyShow to promote and market the event in the country.

A professional basketball league, NBA has established international presence in 215 countries and territories in 49 languages. In India, the pre-match games will be played between Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings at over 4,000-seater NSCI Dome in Mumbai which has hosted Pro Kabbadi League matches. These matches are a prelude to the 74th season of NBA, which will kickstart in October end and end in April 2020.

“It’s a strategic partnership with NBA which will bring an international league’s pre-match to India for the first time. The game will be played in India and will be telecasted live in 200 other countries. We are putting together various packages which will be bundled with and without food and beverages ensuring a carnival like experience for the fans," said Albert Almeida, chief operating officer - live entertainment, BookMyShow.

According to sports industry experts, the match tickets are expected to start at 4,500 going up to over 1 lakh, giving fans a wide variety of options to choose from. Fans will be able to register for the event in the first week of August after NBA makes the formal announcement. The match will be telecast on Sony Pictures Sports Network which is the broadcast partner of NBA in India.

“On our platform while booking the tickets fans will be able to see the 3D view from their chosen seats and decide accordingly," added Almeida.

Basketball barely contributes to country’s sports industry which was at 7,762 crore in 2018 and is dominated by cricket followed by kabbadi and football. However, NBA claims it has been witnessing double digit viewership growth in India making it a strong growth market for them. Over the 2017-18 season, the NBA India Facebook page, with over three million fans, generated more than 1.4 billion impressions and reached an average of 2.7 million fans daily.

To further popularise basketball in the country, the league introduced prime time games in which five NBA matches were played at prime time every Sunday in March and April this year. The association also introduced Hindi commentary to educate new fans.

NBA also works with local licensing partners including e-commerce platforms Jabong, Myntra along with Suditi Industries, multi-brand outlets such as Central, Shopper Stop, Lifestyle and Brand Factory to sell its merchandise.

“It is a huge development for India as NBA is one of biggest global sporting league that is coming to the country. It is for the first time two of the biggest franchise will be playing in India. Though basketball audience is the country is small and niche but I must add it is a rabid target audience. Unlike English Premier League where matches are held in the prime time over weekends, NBA games are broadcasted early morning which is a big deterrent to further popularize the game in India," said Indranil Das Blah, chief executive of Kwan Sports.