The Pro Kabaddi League initially started in 2014. Today it is picking up pace in terms of popularity with other national games such as football and cricket.
Many theories have come out about the origin of this sport which is native to India. It is said that Kabaddi started or was recognized as a competitive sport only in the 1920s. It has since then featured in the Asian Games and in Indian Olympics in the 20th century. However, it has not been able to get much fanfare. The breakthrough for Kabaddi came in only when Charu Sharma, the TV personality, spotted the potential of the sport. This was after the 2006 World Cup.
In 2014 Star Sports tied up with Mashal Sports to start the Pro Kabaddi League for PKL. This was the latest addition to the list of sports leagues that are franchise based in India. Indeed PKL has helped transform Kabaddi into an exciting game that is commercially viable. Today it is watched by millions of users in India.
Indeed it is tricky to compete with the Cricket League which is the biggest in the world, the Indian Premier League. However, PKL has been showing success and it is expected to pick up on popularity soon. The other League that it contends with is the Indian Super League. This is the franchise-based football league that has also been started. Hence we can expect healthy competition between these leading sports platforms.
Statistics gathered over social media show that IPL dominates over the other two leagues in the country. Of course, Cricket League features the best cricketers who have a global identity and are players from around the world. Unlike the IPL, PKL does not showcase players from around the world. Also, IPL has had a head start over the football and kabaddi leagues. It was started six years before the other two leagues’ work formed. Hence they have a stark lead in terms of followers on social media.
However, PKL has gathered a following of over 300k on the social platform Twitter which is impressive. That is also because Kabaddi is a game native to India and it does not have viewership outside the country like football and cricket. However, the evidence is showing that PKL is picking up in popularity and coming close to IPL even.
After the first season of PKL in 2014 statistics show that it had 4.35 million views. IPL on the other hand had 560 million viewers even though it did not have any impressive final. It had 429 million viewers in the inaugural season. Of course, the way IPL is marketed also has a large role to play. For instance, Star Sports has played a large role in the growing popularity of PKL. They had short videos which explain the game, laser shows, and even encourage players to improve their images by flaunting tattoos and haircuts. All such aspects helped promote and improve the profile of PKL in its debut season.
Season 4 of PKL, played in 2016; saw a rise in viewership by about 51% as compared to season 1. Star Sports kept up every effort to keep up the popularity of the sport. For instance, season 6 of PKL was delayed since Kabaddi Masters and Asian Games were scheduled the same year. Hence, audience fatigue led to a dip in viewership that year. However, the leagues regained their momentum the next year as they obtained 1.2 billion in impressions. Subsequently, the 2020 edition was delayed as well. However, confidence in viewership is now ingrained and hence, sponsors are confident of the same.
PKL does not depend on individual player charisma as does in ISL or IPL. The ISL recruitment system centers on picking a marquee player for each campaign of each team. In IPL also, support is gained by promoting teams of the different cities as well as through cherished players such as Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, and MS Dhoni.
Though PKL does not have large names to market, profiles of the players have grown with time and leagues have latched onto them since the beginning. Finances of the league had been simple from the beginning and have grown over time. With Star Spots having put in the considerable marketing effort, the league has improved in terms of investment and sponsorship over the years. Initial investors have been seeing profits since 2017 and prize money is now at 8 crores.
Though IPL has an ongoing dominance, PKL is trying to claim the second position in terms of franchise-based leagues in the country.