Pro Kabaddi League, STAR India’s most precious sports property, will not be broadcast on STAR Gold for season five, starting next July 28. STAR Gold, the prime Hindi movie channel of the STAR India broadcast network, has been among the prime broadcast platforms to lift kabaddi to the status of India’s second most successful commercial sports property.
As the kabaddi league gets bigger, STAR India is taking a strategic risk to take the PKL out of the broadcast platform – Star Gold – that since Season One has been drawing best eye balls with a reach to an additional targeted audience group primarily committed to cinema genre. The PKL season five is the biggest ever, not just for kabaddi but all sporting leagues in India. PKL will be India’s foremost league in terms of geographic representation (12 teams from 11 states), number of matches (130+ matches), and duration of the league (13 weeks) this season.
Star Sports 2 & 3, Star Sports HD2 & HD3, Maa Movies and Suvarna in English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and recently-launched STAR Sports Tamil will broadcast PKL Five. InsideSport has reliably learnt that the STAR management is considering the PKL live broadcast on one of its FTA platforms to increase better eye balls.
InsideSport has written to the STAR India PR team for broadcaster’s official stand on PKL’s withdrawal from STAR Gold. There is no response.
In its first season, PKL was telecast on Star Gold, Star Sports – 1 to 4, FTA channel Star Utsav and regional channels – Plus Suvarna, Maa Movies and Asianet Movies. In season 2, six channels Star Gold, Star Sports – 2 and 3, Plus Suvarna, Maa Movies and Star Pravah beamed out the action. Season 3 was aired on five channels Star Gold, Star Sports – 2 and 3, Plus Suvarna and Maa Movies, besides the STAR digital platform Hotstar. Star Gold has also been the ratings driver for season four.
The PKL is set to get bigger with the new season, which for the first time has seen the league getting a Rs 60-crore (per annum) title sponsorship deal from Vivo. These deals come with huge commitments. Broadcast ratings will be one of these commitments. With such high stakes, a compromise on broadcast ratings will be the last thing on the minds of planners in STAR India – STAR Gold or no STAR Gold.