The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is now the second-most watched TV property behind the Indian Premier League (IPL). That’s a big deal in a country obsessed with cricket, and where kabaddi, at the best of times, is dismissed as a rural pastime.
Industry observers point out that despite brands cutting back on ad spends due to the inflationary pressures, PKL Season 9, which kicks off on October 7, will see a 12% bump in ad rates compared to the 2021 season and touch
1.25 lakh per 10 sec for the league stage and1.60 lakh per 10 sec for the playoffs and finals. Overall, the league’s revenue is expected to increase from
120 crore last year to around150 crore this year.
PKL Season 8 had logged a cumulative TV audience of 227 million and OTT reach of 148 million. While there is no estimate on the growth of OTT audience, advertisers anticipate TV audience to cross 275 million in season nine. Season 8 was telecast on Star Sports, Star Maa Gold, and Star Suvarna Plus TV channels in India. Live streaming was available on the Disney+Hotstar app and website.
The upcoming season has already set new benchmarks in terms of player fees. Among the top Indian players, Pawan Seharawat has become the most expensive player this season, signed by the Tamil Thalaivas for a whopping `2.26 crore. That some of the names in PKL are gaining star status amongst sports fans is a testament to the league’s gaining popularity, says Gunnidhi Singh Sareen, VP, marketing, Head Digital Works (A23). “Over the next few years, we might see the top scorers also getting endorsement deals if the brand fit is right,” he adds.
That said, the property will have the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to contend with. While Diwali is likely to see a bump in spends in certain categories, Niti Kumar, COO, Starcom, points out that if the two properties do clash in terms of telecast time, there is a chance that the budget will get split in favour of cricket. “With growing digital penetration and the rise in CTV, I would bet on the digital success of the league as well. Advertisers will be happy to take on integrated packages if the deal is sweet enough as additional viewers do come in via digital,” she says.
A different ball game
Ruchika Gupta, CMO, Luminous (a Season 8 sponsor), says the property needs a bit more introspection on how to gain more viewers with every passing season. “The advertisers who are betting on this property at the moment are mostly from categories like ours—marketers wanting to connect with the hinterland and the masses in India,” she says.
This year, PKL will operate in a caravan format and will travel through four to five cities and will open doors to fans and audiences, giving advertisers greater opportunity to engage with their key TG through on-ground activations, contests on social and digital media. “With the league opening doors to fans, revenue through ticketing, merchandising, SVOD (short for “subscription video on demand”)and other engagement apart from sponsorship money from 137 games is expected to be over `150 crore,” says R Venkatasubramanian, president, investments & head, Havas Sports, Havas Media Group India.