Star to air Pro Kabaddi League across 8 channels in 5 languages; ropes in 10 sponsors

MUMBAI: Kabaddi! Kabaddi! Kabaddi! The age old Indian game of Kabaddi is back on Star Sports and in its second season, the Pro Kabaddi League is bigger and better.


What’s more, Star India has roped in as many as 10 sponsors for the second season, which will be telecast across eight of its channels in five languages. This time round, Star has also increased the pool of players to 25 from 14 last year.


Additionally, Star is also mulling to hold the tournament twice a year, with the next tournament scheduled as early as January 2016.


After creating history in the first edition by garnering cumulative reach of over 435 million, the second season of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League is set to kick start from 18 July, 2015. Official broadcaster and one of the stakeholders in the tournament, Star Sports has held on to the title sponsorship in the second season too but has managed to bundle in a host of associate sponsors.


The List of Sponsors:


While the title sponsorship remains with Star Sports, the eight associate sponsors on board are:  TVS, VIP Frenzie, Bajaj Electricals, Thums Up, State Bank Of India, Flipkart, Government of India Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Mahindra Jeeto. On the other hand, Radio Mirchi has associated with Pro Kabaddi as radio partners, whereas Britannia is the referee partner.


Star Sports head Nitin Kukreja said, “Kabaddi is back and so are the players. They are bigger, better, fitter, stronger and raring to go. We are increasing the pool of players and making it 25 this year compared to 14 of last. We have a set of international players coming in specially from Iran, which is India’s closest competitor in Kabaddi at a global level. In terms of broadcasting too we are going to reach to a larger audience this time with eight channels covering the event in five different languages. Enhanced graphics, analytics and the newly introduced in-vision commentary will make sure that the viewer experience is much more inclusive in season 2.”


Kukreja further added, “At Star, we are committed to reinvent the great Indian sport of Kabaddi and set it in today’s context. The task is to make the game relevant and aspirational for the millions of young and passionate fans across India. Our objective this season is to make Star Sports Pro Kabaddi bigger and better in terms of play, broadcast and reach.”


Mashal Sports director Charu Sharma, who came up with the idea after watching and covering live Kabaddi matches in 2006 Asian Games, was of the opinion that Pro Kabaddi has added ‘Pride and Respect’ to the honest and homegrown sport. He said, “The primary motive behind creating a league such as Star Sports Pro Kabaddi was to showcase the spectacular athleticism of the top players and give these players their due. The new international competitive and sophisticated face of the game, was appreciated equally by all sects of society, with an absence of a rural and urban divide. When it came to following Kabaddi, everybody was equally drawn to it. I have no doubt in my mind that armed with the continued commitment and encouragement extended by the federation, the team owners, the media and of course the Star Network, all of us can look forward to another blockbuster soon.”


Broadcast expansion, Multi Lingual Feed


Pro Kabaddi will reach out to a huge global audience by reaching over 109 countries. The tourney will be relayed in five different languages namely Hindi, English, Kannada, Telugu and Marathi.


Revenue Model


The money generated from ticketing goes to the home franchise and is the prime source of revenue for team owners. Apart from that, the revenue also comes from sponsorships as brands buy spots on various parts of the jerseys. Additionally, broadcaster Star Sports also pays a certain percentile to the franchises. The first edition of the tournament was not monetized as it was an experimental move. Moreover, Kukreja tells that even in the second season monetization is not the prime focus, “Going forward we might explore various opportunities and launch other possible add-ons but at this point of time we want to give viewers an exquisite experience and that’s our main focus,” he said.


Team Owners’ Reaction


Team owners are buoyed by the progress so far. A franchise owner on condition of anonymity asserted, “Pro Kabaddi League is the most secure venture to invest in and in my opinion many have already drawn level. We will definitely break even this year. It will keep going to newer heights as Star and Mashal Sports are leaving no stones unturned. Sustainability is out of question and this year we plan to reach 60 crore (600 million) viewers. In the first year we were calling brands and pitching but this year there is a long queue waiting for us and that shows just where we’re headed.”


Future roadmap


Another team owner said that the tournament will be organised twice a year. “Fans won’t have to wait for one whole year anymore. The next season will be hosted in January 2016 and there are even possibilities of having a women’s Kabaddi league. So Kabaddi will no longer be a once-a-year sport. Moreover, more editions will popularize the sport and enhance participation, which automatically opens up more scope of revenue generation. So I believe we will have good time ahead if we manage to keep the flair alive and not let corruption play spoilsport.”


After the unprecedented success in the first edition, it remains to be seen if Pro Kabaddi season two manages to successfully live up to expectations.


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