Shailesh Kapoor: It’s time for the ‘Indian Permanent League’

17 Apr,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s that time of the year again, when the IPL begins to hog media attention. In the election season, the league had a relatively low-key launch yesterday. But don’t be fooled by the apparent lack of buzz. IPL has shown over the last four years that it can set new benchmarks in consistency. Irrespective of any input factor, be it the players, the teams, the venues, the scores, the marketing or the scandals, IPL viewership hits roughly the same sweet spot. And the same 3-4 teams drive this viewership, while others continue to struggle.


As always, the trade media is keen to cover the IPL. The problem is: They are not quite sure about the pegs to take year after year. For the last three years, I am being posed roughly the same questions by various financial papers and trade websites, e.g. Will it do well this year, how will it impact GECs, how will GECs respond to IPL, will movies release during IPL, how will box-office be impacted, etc.


These questions have gone from being relevant to puerile over the time continuum of 2008-2014. From being a novel idea that would grab the attention of the masses by the scruff of their necks, IPL has graduated to being a “fixture” in the real sense. It is now well and truly a part of the annual entertainment calendar. Viewers don’t have to “figure it out” every year. They can decide what to do with it with far greater ease than ever before. As a result, it can co-exist with other entertainment options in a manner far more harmonious than when it started. IPL has, now, become the Indian Permanent League.


Being a fixture is both a sign of strength and a challenge. Sign of strength because it’s a comment on the inherent equity the league enjoys. Arguably, IPL doesn’t need to be “sold” anymore. It comes pre-sold. It only needs to happen. But the challenge comes in the form of the question that bothers many brands: “What next?”


In the Lalit Modi era, innovation was a core value IPL had espoused. In the first three seasons, we saw new ideas being experimented with. Some worked, some didn’t. But in the second half of its seven-season history, IPL has slipped into maintenance mode. Being a fixture, that’s not such a bad thing. But extended lack of innovation can create brand fatigue, though there were no evident signs of this fatigue being very strong till last year.


The next quantum jump in IPL’s equity can now come via only one route – building of team loyalties. Unless there is a strong, passionate fan base at least 3-4 teams enjoy, the league will remain entertainment-led than loyalty-driven. Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders have achieved this to some extent. But it’s only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There is a long way to go before IPL can ignite passions like EPL, an oft-quoted benchmark, does.


So the IPL continues to exist, to make a mark and evolve, in its own “fixture-ized” way. Now, won’t it be heartening if the media commentary on IPL evolved too?


TV Trails is a weekly column written by Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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