Kabaddi audience will surpass cricket viewership: Abhishek

Kabaddi audience will surpass cricket viewership: Abhishek- InsideSport

Abhishek Bachchan had forayed into sports as a celebrity sports league team owner. Today he talks like a sports entrepreneur with an in-depth knowledge about the industry he has seen from close quarters over the past three years.

His presence did draw eyeballs and rush to the gates as he entered the scene as a Vivo Pro Kabaddi League team celebrity owner four seasons ago. Today the Jaipur Pink Panthers franchisee owner talks like a seasoned pro about the business of sports – not just philosophically, but with a logic and first-hand experience.

The celebrity who has witnessed his “investment” in the PKL team growing as a business exudes confidence that professional sports will create opportunities in the country like any other industry.

Abhishek, speaking at the ISB Leadership Summit in Hyderabad, said that with growth the sports industry will attract a lot of foreign investors also. The business of professional sports as an industry will create more opportunities – not just for the sports persons, but for professionals and other allied services as well.

“Sports is a viable career option not just as a sportsman. But there is an entire community around the team that gets built. Managers, coaches, marketing people. As an industry, I think sports with the infusion of leagues like IPL, kabaddi, badminton,” he said. “I think that is going to add to the movement of sports and sports management which is going to be huge employer in future.”

As sport grows professionally in the country, there emerges a better growth scenario for sectors like television, broadcast, hospitality, events, sponsorship and sports services. A media rights deal for INR 16, 347.5 crore for the Indian Premier League has resulted in an almost INR 100 crore rupees tax revenue for the State of Maharashtra. That describes the power of sports. Vivo Premier Kabaddi League title sponsorship deal is valued at approximately INR 60 crore per annum. The Indian cricket team’s jersey sponsorship deal contributes INR 440 crore per annum to the BCCI balance sheet.

Sports growth as an industry has created commercial opportunities for all sports. Kabaddi can be one good case study. “The expenditure for the PKL would be one-twentieth of that of IPL. The viewership was recorded 493 million in the very first season of the PKL,” Abhishek said. “If we maintain the trajectory that we do now, there is a strong possibility that the viewership of PKL will be higher than the viewership of the IPL.”

Abhishek was addressing the ISB students. He shared with them the kind of opportunity sports as an industry would produce in future. “Earlier, with only 11 members representing the country’s cricket team, chances of sportsperson getting an opportunity was 0.99%. But now, with leagues coming in, sports is a viable option for many. Not just as a sportsperson but also as managers, coaches, marketing people,” he said and added the leagues will add to the movement of sports and sports management in the country.

“The culture of leagues is pretty new to India. However, the growing demand and rising viewership for various sports will soon attract foreign funds breaking the disparity between games. Players will be exported from India in future,” Abhishek said.

The cine star discussed sporting industry’s numbers like a corporate CEO or a finance head as he pointed out PKL in 2014 had an aggregate TV audience of 493 million whereas the first match of the ongoing fifth season had generated 50 million viewers alone. “During the first season, our overall target for the entire season was 50 million viewers. However, we received massive response of 493 million viewers. It only goes to show how various sports have the potential to be prime in our country,” he added.

Abhishek believes if the trend continues, Kabaddi might soon replace cricket as the most-watched sport in the country. Abhishek also co-owns Chennayin FC franchisee of ISL.