It was a moment in television history that the broadcaster, Star Sports, deemed worthy enough to splash out on the front page of The Economic Times. With 313 million viewers spending 100 billion minutes on the screen, Vivo Pro Kabaddi finals became the largest non-cricket live game to be watched on television in India.
With a viewing universe of 780 million1, television enjoys a penetration of 64% - a jump of 10% over 2013. Since rural TV owning homes (99 million) outnumber urban TV owning homes (84 million), it shouldn't be surprising that a game that is quite popular in India's villages – kabaddi – repackaged with Bollywood glamour, attracts such a massive following as a spectator sport. It also attracts advertisers. The first season in 2014, had no sponsors. The latest, Season 5, was headlined by Chinese mobile brand Vivo, who have reportedly paid Rs 3 billion for a five-year deal; with eight associate sponsors – Castrol, Lux Cozi (an innerwear brand), Indo Nissin Foods, Bajaj Electricals, Gillette, spirits brand USL and AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds of India) forking out between Rs 120-250 million each2. In 2016, sports sponsorship accounted for 11.5% of advertising expenditure, with media spends growing YOY by nearly 25% to Rs. 35 billion3. New properties such as Pro Kabaddi have certainly provided impetus to viewership and revenue growth.