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60 crore ad revenue, 36% viewership hike: Pro Kabaddi League a hat-trick of success

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MUMBAI: The third season did not make fans wait for the too long a period of a year. After a gap of merely a few months Star Sports Pro Kabaddi league was back in action. The mats were the same and there was no change in the number of teams or formats. The only change was the sport had become popular and the tournament had to deal with the burden of expectation. 

"Star India is a champion when it comes to dealing with expectations" says a franchisee owner on condition of anonymity. He further adds, "Many media people will tell you about the marketing and packaging, but the distribution push that they have given has done a world of good for the sport. Only Star Sports would have got them 40 per cent of the reach they have got. Star Gold and other channels is what has done the trick." 

The broadcaster has roped in six associate sponsors for season 3 in Bajaj, TVS, Flipkart, State Bank of India, Gionee and Idea, while Fair & Lovely, Nissin and Mountain Dew are associated as partners. "The ad revenue generated this time would easily count to Rs 60 crore, which is a twenty per cent growth compared to the last edition. This signifies the smart way of monetising that Star has adopted" asserts a media sports media planning expert.

The broadcaster did not sell the title sponsor slot as that takes away majority of the inventory, and instead decided to keep it to itself. "The biggest reason why it’s successful is because the broadcaster is the primary owner and the selling is packaged. The brands get the ROI by having presence both on ground and on television, hence they show immense interest." opines a senior media planning expert.

The 20 per cent hike in revenue is well complemented by a 36 per cent rise in viewership.  While viewership at All India Urban level increased by 36 per cent from 54.5 TVMs in season 2 to 74 TVMs in season 3, Rural India also joined the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi fan bandwagon, delivering a staggering 135 TVMs according to the BARC CS4+ Rural for its first week in season 3. 

On the rise of viewership Star India CEO Uday Shankar had said in a media statement, "No other sport has grown so fast and gained such wide and deep following with fans across urban and rural India, across audience segments – men, women and kids and across screens (television and digital). The sport has truly become a unifier in its appeal, second only to cricket. This brings us a great sense of pride and is a reflection of our commitment to promote a multi-sports-culture in India.”

The moment the twice a year concept was unveiled, critics started prophesising, possibilities of fatigue were magnified, and the quality of matches was questioned. "The seasons so far have answered all those questions, I believe" says Mashal Sports director Charu Sharma. He further adds, "The debate of exploitation does not exist in the case of Kabaddi because we are not there for a good 40 weeks time. The nature of the game is such that we need to be there twice at least for our fans."

The organisers are also toying with the idea of roping in more teams to make it a 12 team format. The new franchises will certainly be sold at a higher price when compared to the first set of buyers. "The game is now established and evolved, but all this will at least take more than a year. The plan is to make it a longer running tournament and then we might have a once a year outing" adds Sharma.

Defending champion, U-Mumba is again in the semis and this makes a 100 per cent success ratio for the team. For all the three, seasons U-Mamba has managed to reach the semis which twice before they have won to qualify for the finals. "They are a formidable force with quality players in the team. The way it is managed, Ronnie and his team also plays a vital role behind their progress. I am happy with the fact that Bengal has made it to the semis, Earlier, Bengal was lacking when it comes to Kabaddi and this is a success of the tournament that new teams are reaching the knockouts" explains Sharma.

"There has been no evidence of fatigue and the wear and tear that are common in any sport and to reach the final stages takes hard work. We had a great season and now we are looking ahead towards the semis," says UMumba CEO Supratik Sen 

Now steps taken by the franchises will determine the next level of success for the league.

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