How Kabaddi became India's fastest growing sport

Kabaddi has its origins from India where it is the second-most watched sport.  It inked the biggest TV sponsorship deal in India for a non-cricket sport.

It seemed impossible to have Kabaddi on television? How would the presentation be or who exactly would watch it?

These were the questions, that people across India needed answers to—when the Indian TV network bought the rights to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) back in 2014, according to Star Sports creative director Siddharth Sharma.

"It was a sport that was not embraced by urban India, (they) completely overlooked the sport." he said, before adding, "The settings of the sport was such that it use to be played on dusty bowls."

Today, exactly four years later, Kabaddi, a body contact sport of raiding and defending between two teams, is now the second most watched sport in India behind cricket.

From the year 2016 to 2017, the PKL increased its TV viewership India by almost 100 million people. And while it's still second to India's premier cricket competition the Indian Premier League, the Pro Kabaddi League has managed to attract more Indian viewers than soccer's World Cup, one of the world's most watched sporting events.

Investment in the league  increased and in 2017, the TV network Star Sports signed the biggest sponsorship deal in India for a non-cricket sport that was worth more than 40 million dollars. This positive change also caused player salaries to increase from about $130,000 dollars for the season's salary to about $210,000.

There's also signs that India's favorite indigenous sport is growing outside the country and as at his year's Asian Games, neither the men or women's India Kabaddi teams won gold, as Iran took the honors in both competition.



Image: Hindustan Times; Season 6 of the Pro Kabaddi League

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