Sports management company Mashal Sports, founded by Anand Mahindra and Charu Sharma, said it will open the tender process for the media rights of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) for the first time ever since the league started in 2014. The rights will be awarded for five years, from Seasons 8 to 12, or until 2025, whichever is earlier.
The online auction process will be held on 6 April. The PKL media invitation to tender will be issued on 25 February. Interested parties can bid for four packages—television, digital, gaming and consolidated (combination of all three), the company said.
“We are also encouraging bidder consortiums to go for the package deal, under which they will be allowed to sub licence gaming rights. We will offer flexibility to bidders to work with PKL in accordance with their appetite,” said Anupam Goswami, league commissioner, PKL, and chief executive of Mashal Sports.
To be sure, Star India, which also owns a 74% stake in Mashal Sports, has been the official broadcaster of the tournament and has built the property from scratch. But conflict of interest and increased pressure from team franchises for a better pay structure from the broadcaster has pushed Mashal Sports to open the media rights to other companies.
The eighth season, which was postponed last year due to covid-19, is expected to be held in June.
“We are going to the market in consensus with PKL franchises and we will ensure real-time transparency among all bidders. Star India has been a responsible majority owner of the league and that continues. The network has built PKL into a modern spectacle on TV and other screens and we wish to maintain a similar relationship with our incoming media partners,” Goswami said.
Touted as the breakout non-cricket sports league, PKL made a stellar debut, but the overall buzz around it has been dwindling with erratic viewership and sponsor interest. The last edition had managed to hold audience attention, registering 9% growth with 1.2 billion impressions, as per data from TV ratings agency Barc. Around 328 million viewers tuned in to watch Season 7, registering 71 billion minutes.
“Season 7 incidentally has the highest viewership and these are strong indices for the consumption of PKL. They compare favourably with most other sports leagues in India. Given the business of leagues is still nascent, we are pretty confident of ourselves,” Goswami said.
“I don’t think the auction will be hotly contested. However, it is a good opportunity for those looking to enter the sports league market and tap into the kabaddi fan base at a relatively small- scale investment,” said Dinesh Rathore, CEO of media agency Madison Media Omega. Samachar Central