With four successful seasons completed in a span of just two years and the sport’s ever increasing popularity, Pro Kabaddi is now set to expand to up to four new geographies. With the addition of these new teams, Pro Kabaddi seems to be gearing up to surpass other Indian sports leagues in terms of geographic representation (teams from 11 states), number of matches (130+ matches), and duration of the league (13 weeks) in Season 5.
The intended new states for Pro Kabaddi have been selected very carefully. Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have been primarily chosen for their high affinity towards Kabaddi with massive fan base, significant on-ground presence of the sport, and potential commercial value to sponsors and advertisers. Both Haryana and Tamil Nadu contribute large number of players to Pro Kabaddi, as well as leading public sector teams in the country. Along with Uttar Pradesh, these states have a rich cultural tradition of highly popular local Kabaddi tournaments. The intrinsic popularity of Kabaddi in India has been most recently demonstrated in Gujarat where the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup has led to a huge surge in public following of Kabaddi.
Pro Kabaddi became an instant hit with Indian sports fans in its very first season in 2014 as 435 million (Source: CS4+; Extrapolated from TAM panel) viewers tuned in. This modern league in India’s ancient sport of Kabaddi has continued to grow from strength to strength in subsequent seasons. Its cumulative viewership growth of 51% (All India viewership. Season 1 measured on TAM panel in Urban only, Season 4 on BARC panel at All India (Urban + Rural) level) over 4 seasons is the highest for any sports league in India. Within a short span of two years, Pro Kabaddi has captured the imagination of Indian viewers and established itself as one of the highest impact television properties in key markets. It has even surpassed IPL in Andhra Pradesh and also achieved primetime slot leadership in Mumbai ((Season 4 viewership on 4+U+R, BARC panel within AP (including Telangana). Slot leadership for 30% of PKL league matches in Mumbai)).
Significantly, the high popularity of Pro Kabaddi as well as 2016 Kabaddi World Cup has evoked continually surging sponsor interest. Pro Kabaddi Season 4 had a total of 64 league and franchise sponsors on board. This fast growing interest from sponsors from diverse sectors of the economy mirrors Kabaddi’s pan-India appeal – cutting across key consumer segments from metropolitan markets to heartland as well as pan-geographical regions. In a remarkably strong endorsement of Kabaddi, the latest edition of an annual report jointly prepared by the leading media investment advisory firm ESP Properties and Sportzpower, a provider of sports business news, states, “…in terms of absolute numbers added to the Sports Sponsorship pie, India’s ancient contact team sport was THE story of 2016.”
“Even for an optimist like me, the response we have seen for Kabaddi is surprising. Having seen its affinity in the country, it would be a disservice to the sport if we do not grow it further. All stakeholders have decided to come together to expand the league and given the pace at which this is growing, it might be just the first in a series of expansions in the coming years,” said Chairman and CEO, Star India, Uday Shankar.
Janardan Singh Gehlot, President, International Kabaddi Federation, a father figure to Indian Kabaddi, stated, “Pro Kabaddi is a truly unique example of how a modern league has transformed the much loved but traditional Kabaddi into a modern sport. Star Sports as well as Mashal have created a magnificent example for the growth of India as multi-sport nation.”
An All India Kabaddi player hunt 2017 was organised by Mashal Sports in association with AKFI as part of its talent development programme across 14 cities in India. Over 4600 participants between the age groups of 18 to 22 years got a chance to showcase their Kabaddi talent. This initiative will play an important role in catalysing the on-ground Kabaddi eco-system and providing a future pipeline of players.
Mashal Sports is inviting Expression of Interest from reputable corporate entities having a vision for investing in the overall development of the sport from the ground up and participating in the success of PKL through their active involvement as a franchise team. Mashal Sports will shortlist selected interested participants and invite them to participate in a transparent tender process. The selection of the winning bidders will be done by a panel of eminent people based on both qualitative and financial criteria. The process is expected to be completed by May 5, 2017 providing enough time for the new franchise to prepare for Season 5 starting in July 2017.