The first day telecast of the Pro Kabaddi League, promoted by Mashal Sports, attracted a whopping 22 million viewers - 10 times more than what the first match of the recently concluded Football World Cup 2014 had garnered.
The league is being broadcast on Star Sports 1 and Star Gold. The first match of the league, launched on July 26, was played between Ronnie Screwvala's U Mumbai and Abhishek Bachchan's Jaipur Pink Panthers. The numbers represent the viewers who were tuned in the match at any given point of time for at least a minute.
"We are very excited about kabaddi, but these are early days. At STAR, we believe in building content on a long-term basis; our positions and moods don't swing based on day one ratings! We strongly believe in the potential of kabaddi and that is the reason we are working so hard to build it," Uday Shankar, chief executive of STAR India, was quoted as saying by theBusiness Standard.
But the report, citing analysts, added that the viewership numbers might fall, as sustaining interest in the game will be difficult.
"We always believed in the sport. It was a great effort on the part of STAR India to package and position the league so well. Their strategy of having a Hindi feed on Star Gold also helped attract eyeballs. It goes to show how important it is to present a sport in a way that is inclusive of the viewer," the report quoted Charu Sharma, who conceptualised the league, as saying.
According to the report, the league has also generated a lot of interest online. It recieved 140 million impressions on Twitter just about 12 hours into the league.
The league has a total of eight teams - Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Vishakapatnam. The owners of the franchises include, entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala for Mumbai, the Future Group for Kolkata, Insurekot Sports (Kotak Group) for Pune, and Abhishek Bachchan for Jaipur.