MUMBAI: Three quarters of the total viewership of the recently completed fifth season of the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) came from rural areas, figures from the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) show.

Not only that, but it attracted new fans, including younger viewers and female viewers, reported: 43% of all viewers were female, while 2-14 year olds made up 19% of the audience and 15-21 year olds 21%.

Overall viewing figures soared to 1.6bn impressions for live telecast, although these are not directly comparable with season four since this year’s tournament was expanded to 12 teams which competed in 140 games.

Last year’s tournament involved eight teams taking part in 60 games that generated 561m impressions.

An expanded geography also boosted viewership, with Tamil Nadu being one of the most successful new markets.

But the average impressions per game in season five were 22% up at 11m against season four’s 9 million. And the season five final, in which Patna Pirates won their third title after defeating Gujarat Fortunegiants, delivered 25.4m impressions, an 83% leap on season four’s 13.9m.

“India has truly embraced kabaddi,” declared Sanjay Gupta, managing director of Star India, which holds the broadcast rights. “That the love for kabaddi is cutting across geographies and demographics is self-evident,” he added.

Gupta further claimed that kabaddi is now the most-watched non-cricketing sport in the country.

Advertisers have taken note, with more than 100 now involved, pushing sponsorship revenues up 320% in 2017 and generating a reported 15:1 ROI.

“When we started out, it was difficult to get corporations to own franchises,” Uday Shankar, Star India chairman, said back in September.

“But this year, when we added four teams, a large number of top corporates and individuals were very keen. We had a problem of plenty.”

Sourced from; additional content by WARC staff