What is more encouraging for the sport is that the final between Ronnie Screwvala's U Mumbai and Abhishek Bachchan's Jaipur Pink Panthers had a reach of 86 million, which is almost three quarters of an average Indian Premier League (IPL) match. This year's IPL final recorded a reach of 200 million viewers. The PKL's performance outshines that of tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, Hero Hockey India League and Wimbledon Men’s Final, which recorded a reach of 24.6 million, 10.4 million and 6.1 million, respectively.
To further put the number into perspective, one out of every four Indian TV viewers was watching Star Sports Pro Kabaddi final-day coverage between 8:00 pm and 10.30 pm on August 31.
The final also proved the scepticism shown by some quarters of the industry regarding the depth in viewership of kabaddi since it recorded television rating of 3.7 among males aged 15 years and above in the SEC (socio-economic class) A, B and C markets. This is comparable to the average ratings of an IPL match.
Reach refers to the number of people tuned into the event and viewed it for a minimum of one minute, while television viewer rating or TVR denotes the number of people watching an event at any given time during the telecast. While the former gives an idea of how well-sampled an event is, the latter gives a measure of persistence in viewing.
Uday Shankar, CEO of STAR India, says: “Kabaddi was a signal of our commitment to fostering a truly multi-sport culture in India by taking a nearly forgotten game and transforming it into a contemporary offering. The fact that it now has the overwhelming support of people brings us great pride.”
Anand Mahindra and Charu Sharma-promoted PKL also found viewers in females as 39 per cent of the viewership came from the fairer sex. Such participation by female viewers is usually seen in tournaments such as the IPL and, more recently, the FIFA World Cup which recorded 45 per cent share of women viewing in West Bengal and 33 per cent across the country. In case of kabaddi, the female viewership came as a surprise since it had never been televised until now, and is considered a predominantly male-skewed sport.
PKL was a hit on the digital medium as well. The network informs that the league recorded a whopping 2.3 billion plus impressions on the social media during its run. “It is not only the number of impressions, but also the immensely positive sentiments reflected through these social media conversations that share the highlight. Over 90 per cent comments and reactions noted on social media with regards to the Pro Kabaddi League have a positive tone. August 29 and 31 (series culmination day) generated the most ever daily conversations for the Star Sports Twitter handle with more than 25,000 tweets coming in each day,” the network said.
The next instalment of the PKL is scheduled for March 2015 and the promoters and broadcaster aim to make it a bi-annual event in the long run, amounting to 26 weeks of kabaddi action annually.