PKL team owners seek fresh media rights auction to stall losses

The clubs in the Pro Kabaddi League were earlier receiving around Rs 6.5 crore per season from broadcast rights, but the franchises now want a larger share.

After running losses even in the seventh season, franchises are looking to stem the losses and look towards earning profits.

Season eight of the Pro Kabbadi League (PKL) might have a new broadcast partner as Star Sports’ five-year deal with the League came to an end last year. However, the League’s plan to auction the media rights for the next cycle has been indefinitely postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The clubs were earlier receiving around Rs 6.5 crore per season from broadcast rights, but the franchisees are now eyeing a larger share. “There is absolutely no bad blood; the franchises are just looking out for themselves. The teams invest around Rs 14-15 crore per season but only get close to Rs 6.5 crore in return, which is a 100 percent loss,” said Telugu Titans owner Srinivas Sreeramaneni.   

“The franchises have invested a significant amount of money over the last six years and want to stop bleeding now. The costs have gone up – player fees, number of matches, travel expenses, everything has risen. When the PKL began, our cost for the first season was three crores, and today it is almost five times that.

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“It has been seven seasons and clubs are still making losses. Initially, we thought we will have to bear losses for the first 3-4 years, but it has gone on for 7 seasons, and now the losses are increasing as the league expands. That’s what the clubs are looking for – a more equal share, to write off losses and make money at least going forward,” he added. 

It has also come to light that team owners have expressed their discomfort with Star Sports’ control over the League and have cited a conflict of interest, given that Star Sports owns the media rights as well as the majority share in the League’s founding company – Mashal Sports. 

Mashal Sports, established in 1994, launched the PKL in 2014 and Star Sports was roped in as the broadcaster. However, buoyed by the resounding success of the debut season, Star Sports acquired a 74 percent stake in Mashal Sports, thereby gaining control of the tournament.

Listen to Sportstar's recap of the the 2019 season of the Pro Kabaddi League, in which Bengal Warriors won its maiden title:

 

However, the team owners are now keen on a more transparent process. “The renewal of the media rights was under negotiation between Mashal Sports and Star Sports and an initial offer was made to the franchisees, which they have refused. Most clubs are on the same page and want an open auction, similar to how it is conducted for the Indian Premier League,” said a senior source.