The league’s television rights have been a reason of troble for the team owners.
Kabaddi fans in India have a cause to be concerned right now. This is partly due to the interruption to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) caused by the pandemic and partly due to the ongoing dispute over the broadcasting rights for the competition. Since the PKL began, in 2014, Star Sports have held the rights to broadcast matches. This has been a successful enterprise. The inaugural season of the league attracted 435 million viewers.
It also helped to bring an already popular Indian sport further into the spotlight. Kabaddi even joined other sports being represented in online sportsbooks, dafabet being one of them, where sports fans choose to place bets on their favourite events and teams; you can see more details here.
So, the screening of the PKL has been important in bringing the sport to an increasing fan base by raising its profile. However, this has not brought about substantial benefits for the teams in the PKL.
PKL teams dissatisfied with financial returns
The teams that take part in the PKL mainly do so because they have a love for the sport. So, they were not too concerned about making a profit initially. However, six years after the league first began, clubs are actually making a loss. According to Telugu Titans owner Sreenivas Sreeramaneni, ticket sales are barely enough to take care of stadium upkeep.
In terms of overall investment, this is normally around ₹14-15 crore per season for each team. This is partly covered by broadcast fees of around ₹6.5 crores per team. However, this still leaves losses of several crores per season. This is the main reason why the broadcasting of the PKL is in doubt right now.
Ongoing issues over the broadcasting of the PKL
The talks over broadcasting rights for the PKL reached a hurdle earlier this year when the financial offer by Star Sports did not meet the expectations of the team franchise owners. This has caused an impasse between Marshal Sports, the organisers of the PKL, and the teams. It seems that the team owners are now asking for an impartial auction of the rights to take place with some of them concerned about Star Sports influence given that it owns 74% of Marshal Sports.
This auction process may be the only way out of a difficult situation with Star Sports thought to have offered a ₹14-15 crore per season share from the media rights to each team against team expectations of ₹22 crore per season. Whatever happens, the rights have to be agreed before the next season starts which it’s thought will be sometime next year or fans may miss out on watching their favourite sport. The rights were originally up for renewal for the 2020 season, but its cancellation means that the new agreement will now cover the next five seasons, starting next year.
As the current holders of the rights, Star Sport was entitled to make the first offer. Now that this offer has been rejected by the teams, it is likely that auctions will take place later this year. Until then, doubts over the broadcasting of the PKL will remain.