2017 : Indian sports leagues’ commercial report card

pro kabaddi league,isl season 4,Indian Premier League,Indian Super League,Premier Badminton League,InsideSport

Is gestation period over for commercial sports in India? Yes will be the answer for the top leagues. Some others are moving closure to emerge from proverbial ‘gestation period’. The success story of India’s premier commercial league Indian Premier League and the rapidly rising Pro Kabaddi League give a hope for others, while also setting high bench mark for the industry.

The year that has seen a national level, private sports leagues media rights value reach a staggering ₹16,347.5 crores, also leave broadcasters with higher revenue and viewership rating targets for their own survival. Insidesport.co takes a stock of India’s top commercial sports leagues from a broadcaster’s perspective.

The leagues are rated on TV AUDIENCE and ON-AIR SPONSORSHIP REVENUE parameters.


The biggest one first. IPL media rights deal was the news of the year for Indian sports intellectual properties. IPL’s consolidated viewership ratings and a steady growth in advertisement revenues will justify the Star India bid worth ₹16,347.5 crores. Albeit, the recoveries will be challenging.


The TV audience for IPL 2017 has seen a 22.5% surge over the previous edition. As per the Broadcast Audience Research Council data, the IPL 10 recorded 1.25 billion impressions for the total of 59. In 2016, the ninth edition has recorded 1.02 billion impressions for the 60 games. However, the ratings for the final have gone down when compared to the previous year. The IPL 10 final between Rising Pune Supergiants and Mumbai Indians garnered 39.4 million audiences, down from 44.68 million between the Bengaluru and the Hyderabad teams in the season 9.


The broadcaster for the Season Ten, SONY TV targeted had ₹1,300 crore in revenues for 2017. The channel, according to information available with insidesport.co, has collected a healthy ₹1,430 crore through ad-sales – exceeding the target by 10% to create new benchmarks. It was also a ₹230 crore growth over the ₹1200 crore the official broadcaster had generated in 2016.


The consistent growth in numbers has enabled cricket world’s biggest league garner a record-breaking deal with STAR SPORTS (₹16,347.5 crores for media rights) and VIVO for the title sponsorship rights.

IPL was the success story and a clear winner among the Indian sports leagues for the year 2017.



More teams. More matches. Single longer season and closer to the status of India’s premier football league. The ISL is transforming the Indian football horizon in a big way. It is a rare example, where the sports commercial success is driving its sporting glory.


ISL Season 4 is showing great traction on viewership front on both broadcast as well as digital platforms. The first three weeks of Season 4 data show that the league has recorded a cumulative reach of 81 million viewers. Digital streaming platform Hotstar has already declared that it is seeing 3x growth in viewers when compared to the Season 3 number on the platform.

The ISL Season 3 had registered a total of 216 million audiences. ISL season 4, which is five months long is, surely going surpass the benchmarks with a handsome lead. The packed houses with the exception of the matches in Delhi are the most heartening factor for the ongoing season. According to the insidesport.co‘s research team, the seat occupancy rate during the ISL games is as high as 84% in most of the cities hosting the ISL matches.


Host broadcaster Star Sport has set a ₹200 crore revenue target for ISL 4. The ISL or Indian football portfolio, held by Reliance IMG, has managed a great deal at the onset with HERO MotoCorp. The three-year includes all Indian football assets’ lead sponsorship – the ISL and I-League titles and Indian national team sponsorships. The deal has been valued at ₹180 crores, ₹60 cr per annum, with no separate valuations earmarked for ISL.

Star has signed other sponsors in form of Maruti Suzuki, DHL & AMFI, late entrant Samsung as associate sponsors and Amul, Apollo Tyres, Imperial Blue, Servo, and Bisleri as official partners.

The first season of ISL had seen sponsors pump in ₹55 crore, the second season saw close to ₹100 crore through sponsorship, while the third season was estimated to have seen ISL surpassing revenues of ₹150 crore in sponsorships. In the difficult market circumstances, ISL till now has failed to surpass the previous year numbers.

Star has fallen way-short of their targets of 200 crore for the season, according to sources.


The ISL is turning out to be a big hit on the viewership front, a way-off target ISL Season 4 has left a lot to be desired for being a commercial success.



PKL for the season was off the blocks with a grand title sponsorship deal with VIVO. The consistent growth and commercial success, coupled with the audience reach, lays all doubts about the Indian rural sports’ prospects of succeeding as a national level league.


The PKL has increased its teams from 8 to 12, extended its season to 13 weeks and the same is reflected in their performance on all fronts. The Pro Kabaddi continued its remarkable run with Season 5 on the viewership front. If the grounds saw packed houses, 313 million sports lovers tuned into Star’s channels to watch the league. The total watch time of 100 billion minutes.The league easily became the most watched non-cricketing league in the country – thanks also to Star India’s free to air channel Star Sports First. The power of kabaddi also gave India’s first privately-owned FTA sports channel an instant recognition and a constant top five spot in the BARC ratings.

Not only this, PKL season 5 finale delivered unprecedented numbers. Numbers worth drawing comparison with the IPL 10 Finale.


Vivo signing as title sponsor of the Pro Kabaddi League for ₹60 crore per annum, ₹300 crore 5-year contract was the deal of 2017 for the Indian sporting ecosystem. Never ever any non-cricket sport has managed a deal closer to these values. The title sponsor deal brought all the limelight to the sport, opening a gateway for other brands to barge in.

A total of nine sponsors were on board. Big names like Gillette, TVS Motors, AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds of India), Bajaj Electricals, Indo Nissin, Lux Cozy, Castrol, USL and RR Kabel joined VIVO on the list of brands supporting kabaddi. While Gillette, TVS, AMFI, and Bajaj were on board as associate sponsors for each having a commitment around ₹12-15 crores, as per industry sources, the other partners like Nissin, USL, Castrol, Lux Cozy and RR Kabel have commitments worth ₹5-7 crores. In total, the Pro Kabaddi clocked more than ₹120 crores on sponsorship front in the season 5.


The kabaddi has been the success story of the year in terms of growth rate – both on air, on ground success and in revenue aggregation.



Hockey India League after showing a great ray of hope has failed to deliver on all fronts in year 2017. The exit of hockey federation supremo, Dr. Narinder Dhruv Batra, the man behind the league and also waning interest in the sport, has led to the national federation canceling the league for year 2018. 2017 was the fifth season of the league and it was nothing less than a disaster for the participating franchisees, sponsors, and the broadcasters.

The bleeding franchisees with a few exceptions failed to extract any sponsorship interest in the league. Other than a couple of PSU’s supporting the endeavor, the league in itself could not evince corporate sponsors’ interest.


On viewership front, the league delivered less than 30 million cumulative audiences for the entire 35-day season. Though the league was also simulcast on country’s leading digital platform Hotstar, it failed to create any wavelength with the digital audiences.


The lesser said the better. Corporate sponsors with few exceptions stayed away from the league.


Overall disappointing year for HIL resulted in leagues postponement in 2018.



The Indian badminton is dominating on the global stage. PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Srikant, HS Prannoy have become strong contenders and big challengers at every stage they compete. Media and Corporate are taking note of the growth. The sport is growing and shinning. However, the same does not hold true for country’s premier league in the sport of badminton? The straight answer is A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.


PBL has failed to strike a chord with the Indian audiences. The ratings tell the story. PBL despite all the factors in its favor has radically failed to deliver on the tube. PBL season 2 in 2017 could only deliver 18-19 million audiences throughout the period of the league. It could be a failed marketing plan, but the league is really struggling to get badminton lovers on the court sides as well as on-air in spite of a strong star quotient.


Star being sponsorship rights holder (both on-ground and on-air) has succeeded in managing a couple of sponsorships in PBL season 2. The deals included title sponsor Vodafone and Bajaj Electricals. The total revenues were less than ₹20 crores for the season 2.


The PBL season 3 is on. Ironically, the picture looks more glimmer. The sponsors list and values have nose-dived. The league in spite of badminton’s potential as a sport and star power has surely failed on all fronts.


The other leagues in the form of Pro Wrestling League, hosted on one venue like a tournament, Super Fight League, Super Boxing League and Premier Futsal have failed to strike anything worthwhile on both sponsorship and viewership front.

The Year 2017 has seen the advent of a league in Table Tennis (UTT). Though league in the inaugural year has failed to reach the viewership or sponsorship numbers worth being termed close to success, the smooth execution and professional conduct of the IP owners augur well for the initiative.