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Star India eyes big revenue from Pro Kabaddi League 2

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MUMBAI: Kabaddi - a sport, predominantly known as villagers’ entertainment, successfully garnered cumulative reach of 435 million and managed to change popular perception when it made its debut in 2014. Star India’s Pro Kabaddi League became an avenue that has the potential to generate enormous revenue.

While in the first edition, Star Sports was the title sponsor of the league instead of a brand, given the high ratings; it is unlikely that the second edition will see a similar occurrence. According to sources close to the development, in the first week of June, Star India will formally announce the sponsors and date of the tournament.

So far, 2015 has been an action packed calendar for sports with the ICC Cricket World Cup, followed by the Indian Premier League (IPL). The entire sports loving fraternity is buoyed, which is a positive for broadcasters and organisers. However, an issue they might have to contend with is advertisers’ fatigue since multiple brands have spent heavily on the two cricket tournaments.        

Pro Kabaddi League is a Mashal Sports initiative, which was initially a joint venture between quizmaster and commentator Charu Sharma and industrialist Anand Mahindra. However, Star India, in April 2015, acquired 74 per cent stake in Mashal Sports.

Speaking about the second edition of the tournament, Sharma tells Indiantelevision.com, “It is going to be bigger and better than last year. The previous edition ended even before people got into it. While they wanted tickets, the stadiums were full. Pro Kabaddi League is an exhibition of athleticism and action. People liked the innovation because of the raw nature of the sport. This year, I am sure Star will back it with aggressive and accurate promotion, which will apprise the viewer of each and every minor occurrence. I am sure we are going to have an exquisite extravaganza this year.”

A senior executive from the media fraternity is of the opinion that the ad rates for a 10 second slot during the tournament will be somewhere between Rs 75,000 – 80,000.

Madison Media COO Dinesh Singh Rathod says, “Last year, it delivered the ratings and hence brands, who missed out on it or probably were unsure will aggressively forge for it. I see the sport as a good medium for promotions and subsequently won’t be surprise if there are brands galore in this edition.”

The sports rules and regulations were twisted and turned to make the format interestingly elite says entrepreneur and franchisee owner Ronnie Screwvala. “When Charu introduced me to the facts and figures associated with the sport, I was surprised to know the number of players across the country who actively play Kabaddi and hence I was quite sure that the sport will work on television but for that it was necessary to make few changes and the federation (International Kabaddi Federation) was immensely cooperative. Mat came in, the sport from muddy outdoor land went indoor, the raider instead of chanting ‘kabaddi kabaddi’ without break of breath were given a time span to ensure fair judgment as it is impossible to make out for the referee if the raider broke the breath in an indoor stadium that is packed. So all this subtle changes made Kabaddi what it is,” Screwvala tells indiantelevision.com in an exclusive chat.

Besides players and the innovations in the format, celebrities also played a vital role in the success of the tournament.  All eight franchises had a celebrity connect and names like Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan were spotted sidelines screaming ‘Kabaddi ek Kabaddi do,’ which in turn drove their fan base to the sport.

It now remains to be seen how many brands go aggressively to use Pro Kabaddi League as a platform to grab eyeballs and whether the sport turns out to be a productive asset for the Rupert Murdoch owned Star Sports.

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