Kabaddi World Cup final becomes most watched non cricket event in Indian sports history
India lifted their third consecutive World Cup in Kabaddi, but this was the first time they witnessed such thunderous response from the fans all across the globe, be it on-air or online.
According to BARC’s TV viewership data, the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup clocked a whopping viewership of 114 million spanning across the 33 matches played between 12 countries for 16 days.
The flagship event was a major success as it saw participation from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Iran, Poland, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Korea, Japan and Kenya.
The finals of the Kabaddi World Cup which took place between the third time finalists India and Iran garnered a total viewership of 20.3 million (number of spectators watching the event at any point of time), higher than the biggest non-cricket sporting event following PV Sindhu’s final at the Rio Olympics 2016 which had 16.7 million views.
In fact, as per viewership data, the finals between India and Iran became one of the top 50 most watched events on television in the last one year (since the inception of BARC in April 2015).
In retrospect, prior to 2016, two Kabaddi World Cups were played (in 2004 and 2007) and India won both of them, beating Iran each time but those victories are barely remembered by anyone.
Credits go to Star India which owns the TV rights for the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), the league format Kabaddi tournament, and can greatly be attributed for popularizing the sport in the country with their apt coverage.
According to Economic Times, CEO of sports business at Star India Nitin Kukreja said, “For all practical purposes, we look at 2016 World Cup as the first tournament of this scale. This World Cup has taken the sport to a different level. While we have seen a definite increase season-to-season in PKL, the World Cup has established India’s love for Kabaddi very strongly.”
A total of 30% new viewers tuned in for the World Cup, showing a growth curve of increasing popularity for the sport in the country. “We started PKL in July 2014. Between then and October 2016, these 27 months, we have conducted 4 seasons of PKL and one Women's championship. Every time we have seen viewership and buzz increasing. The final match of World Cup had a 25 percent higher viewership that season finale of PKL4,” Kukreja further added.