Joseph Eapen (pictured), senior vice president, SMG India, looks at audience and viewing figures for the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) in India.
- League earned three times as many viewers as recent India/Sri Lanka cricket series
- Viewing duration up 26%
- 10-second advertising slots increasing in price
Despite a huge increase in price, the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) has become the best-value sponsorship property in Indian sport.
Since the league’s fifth season began in July, Vivo’s five-year partnership with the sport is looking increasingly like the deal of year.
The new season of kabaddi is even giving the national cricket team a run for its money. By some audience analysis it earned three times as many viewers as the recent Indian/Sri Lanka series.
Kabaddi’s audience growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. In the opening match of its 138-fixture season it attracted a viewership which was a 10th of its audience for the entire 2014 season.
The Sri Lanka series may have ended but filling each of India’s top five sports programme slots in a week, as PKL 5 has, is nevertheless impressive.
Our data (see chart) shows that the most recent iteration of the PKL has already attracted a cumulative audience which outstrips the whole of season four.
The competition’s format of high-intensity 40-minute matches lends itself to a strong viewer proposition, so much so that the league has been extended to take in extra matches and teams this season.
PKL can point to a growth in the length of time people are watching too. Viewing duration is up 26% from 19 minutes per match last season, to 24 minutes per match.
For sponsors, including mobile phone manufacturer Vivo, the PKL is turning into a gold rush.
Because broadcaster STAR, owned by 21st Century Fox, is also the league’s major shareholder, sponsors are offered enviable opportunities to intertwine in-venue and in-broadcast spots.
That permits a level of impact that cannot easily be replicated in other sports where there can often be clashes between TV advertisers and title, team and venue sponsors.
PKL’s ability to offer sponsors synchronicity across these mediums is driving a return on investment that other sports will struggle to match.
Similarly, broadcaster STAR, with its shareholding in soccer’s Indian Super League (ISL), will be able to offer the same supercharged sponsorship opportunities in football as PKL provides to partners.
That has seen 10-second advertising slots increase in price to 160,000INR (€2,100/$2,500) this season (compared to 612,000 for IPL), a reflection of the fact that despite its rustic roots, kabaddi’s audience is now split almost 50/50 between urban and rural areas.
STAR has now shown with PKL and ISL a unique model can offer unique acceleration.