MUMBAI: After an astounding success
in the inaugural edition, Pro Kabbadi
League (PKL) promises to become an
established sporting property for
official broadcaster Star India. What
is being done to scale up the event?
How commercially rich is it going to
TelevisionPost.com looks at the
reinvention of India’s ancient rural
sport as a rich sporting and TV event.
Why having Star India as an equity
partner will help PKL to scale up?
Star acquired 74 per cent stake in
Mashal Sports that owns the PKL
property. That makes it not just a
broadcast partner, but also a co-
owner and gives it control to design
and tailor the product for popularising
it among the audiences.
Anand Mahindra, sports commentator
Charu Sharma, and Lex & Legal
Services’ Rajiv Luthra are the other
shareholders in the company. Adman
Piyush Pandey is an advisor.
Mashal Sports has taken the rights to
organise the league for a period of 10
years from the International Kabaddi
Federation (IKF), with an option to
renew it further. Star’s aim is to
spawn a multi-sport culture in India.
Will widening the playing window be
helpful for Star as the official
broadcaster of the property?
The second edition of PKL will have 60
games in eight cities, spread over 37
days. The sport will be better off if it
has more competitions running over a
longer duration. Other nations have
sporting events played over several
months. In the US, this is the case
with the NBA. Soccer in England runs
over 35 weeks. The challenge is to
sustain viewer interest for the sport
over an extended window of playing
time every year.
Is it feasible to have longer duration
visibility of the sport?
Unlike the Indian Premier League
(IPL), which has constraints of an
international cricket calendar fixed
by the ICC, PKL has the flexibility to
decide its own fate. It can find ways
of developing its own calendar.
However, it will need many more
talented players and create a big
bench. Being a contact sport, players
can get injured and get tired.
Can kabaddi go global?
Star India is determined to make PKL
a globally watched sport. PKL will be
telecast this time over 109 countries,
including key markets like the US, UK
and Middle East. Moreover,
international players form part of the
teams and will be seen in action this
IKF president Janardan Singh Gehlot
wants kabaddi, an ancient rural Indian
sport, to be included in the Olympic
Games. Kabaddi came on the
international map in 1985 during the
SAF Games in Dhaka. It saw its major
breakthrough in 1990 when it was
included in the Asian Games during the
11th Asian Games in Beijing. Since
then, Kabaddi is a regular discipline in
the Asian Games.
What are Star’s plans to widen
kabaddi’s television viewership?
The second season of PKL is being
telecast in five languages across
eight channels to take the traditional
Indian sport closer to fans across the
country. It will be broadcast on Star’s
English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and
The English feed will be carried by
Star Sports 2 and Star Sports HD2.
The Hindi feed will be on Star Sports
3, Star Sports HD3 and Star Gold. The
Telugu feed will air on Maa Movies and
the Kannada feed on Kannada GEC
Is Star trying out a new language to
broaden the appeal of sports?
Yes! Star Pravah will have a Marathi
feed on Sundays only. This is the first
time that Star will have Marathi feed
for a sporting event.
How popular was PKL in its inaugural
Star claims that PKL is the second
most-watched sport in the country,
after the IPL. The first season was
watched by over 435 million viewers
nationwide. The season finale alone
recorded a reach of 86.4 million.
Why was PKL so successful in the first
It did three things—made kabaddi an
aspirational sport, ensured a good
stadium experience and caught the
attention of a new generation of TV
What is Star doing new in the second
edition of PKL?
Enhanced graphics, analytics, and
commentary will make sure that the
viewer experience is far more
inclusive in Season 2. It will also have
commentary from the field of play, a
never-seen-before phenomenon in
Indian sports. Star is committed to
reinventing the sport and setting 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. The
objective this season is to make PKL
bigger and better in terms of quality
of play, broadcast and reach.
Has the player pool increased?
This season, PKL will feature a much
deeper pool of national and
international players. The squad
strength of the teams has been
increased from 14 members during the
inaugural edition to 25 for the second
season. This will allow teams greater
freedom to not only field local and
young talent, but also to ensure that
teams are not affected adversely by
What is being done on the marketing
Amitabh Bachchan sang the ‘Le Panga’
song in the ad. This has been another
key marketing push for Star Sports
after the ‘Mauka Mauka’ campaign
for the Cricket World Cup. He will
also perform the National Anthem on
the opening night.
Is there greater sponsorship interest
Yes! Last time, companies adopted a
wait-and-watch policy. Star was not
willing to compromise on ad rates
when doing deals for the first season.
That decision and the faith that Star
put into the product has been
justified. Now advertisers are finding
it hard to ignore PKL. This season,
the broadcaster has roped in the likes
of Bajaj Electricals, Department of
Atomic Energy, Flipkart, Mahindra &
Mahindra, State Bank of India, Thums
Up, TVS Motors, and VIP Frenchie as
Franchises get 80 per cent of the
revenue from the central pool.
Indications are that some are trying
to negotiate for better deals from
sponsors. They are taking their cue
from Star and are trying not to sell
How does Star want to build the
Star India CEO Uday Shankar has
spoken of creating a vocabulary for
Kabaddi as the next big aim. The sport
needs idioms and phrases that can
describe the game. There is also need
for formally trained commentators
Who are the teams and the owners?
Bengal Warriors (Kolkata) – Kishore
Biyani, Future Group
Bengaluru Bulls – Kosmik Global Media
Dabang Delhi – Radha Kapoor, DO IT
Jaipur Pink Panthers – Abhishek
Patna Pirates (Patna) – Rajesh Shah
Puneri Paltan (Pune) – Sumanlal Shah,
Telugu Titans – Veera Sports
U Mumba (Mumbai) – Ronnie
Screwvala, Unilazer Sports
How viable is the business model of
The franchises spend much less than
their IPL and ISL counterparts. For
some PKL franchises, breakeven is
expected to happen next year. Each
PKL franchise spends between Rs 45
and 50 million annually including a
nominal franchise fee.
Which players have a lot of money
riding on them?
Iranians have invaded the event and
are commanding a good price besides
some Indian players. The most costly
players include Rs 2.11 million for
Hadi Oshtorak from Iran. The bid was
made by Telugu Titans. Meraj Sheykh
was also signed by Telugu Titans for
Rs 2.01 million. India’s Rakesh Kumar
was the most expensive player last
year at Rs 1.28 million. He is with the
What other things is PKL considering
to grow the sport?
Abhishekh Bachchan has said that the
PKL franchises are in favour of
introducing a league for women. This
is important because women are good
at this sport; they practise with men.
You want to put out a product that is
as competitive and entertaining as
possible. However, this will take time
to materialise and issues like finance
need to be worked out.
What is the challenge that PKL faces?
The ratings need to be better than
the first season. The first season was
a novelty. Nobody had seen this kind
of a product before. If ratings grow,
then the event is on a strong path.
MUMBAI: After an astounding success