Shailesh Kapoor: 2015: IPL’s Watershed Edition?

22 May,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Since its start in 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has managed to grab advertiser and media attention like no other property ever did, before or after IPL launched. Today, it may not seem to be such a big deal, but the success of IPL was never a given. But on the opening night in 2008, when Brendon McCullum got the league zooming at top speed, no one has doubted whether IPL would work. It’s always been a question of how big a success it would be.

 

2008-10 were strong, settling-in years for IPL. Audiences lapped up the entertainment, and viewership saw steady consolidation. However, it was clear by the end of 2010 that creating franchises with solid fan base will be no child’s play. Only Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata managed to create a strong base for themselves, while others like Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and even Bangalore struggled to build brands.

 

As a result of this fragile franchise loyalty, IPL became an “entertainment dose” for most viewers, than an emotional rollercoaster. This, in turn, led to low involvement viewership. When the 2011 season started, at the back of a long and highly satisfying World Cup for India, the cracks showed. Viewership dropped, because the need for the entertainment dose was not felt after the World Cup win, and the emotional benefits were missing anyway.

 

2012-14 were difficult years as well. Viewership was stagnant to declining, depending on whether you consider the newly-introduced LC1 markets in the mix or not. Spot fixing controversies plagued the league’s credibility in the media in particular, and the cricket itself was, at best, semi-competitive.

 

When the 2015 season started, again at the back of a long World Cup, there were question marks on how well the IPL will perform. But what we have seen this season may well be the turnaround story in IPL’s short history.

 

To begin with, viewership has increased by a significant notch. Even as the industry gets used to a new currency, there are enough data points, including some run by us, that suggest this has been the best season since 2010 in terms of viewership and engagement levels.

 

A series of close games have contributed to this success in no small measure. But that’s the cricket part that, unlike what some may like us to believe, is beyond the stakeholders’ control. The part that has been controlled well is the stability of team compositions, which has been a major concern in the past. Key players have now built strong associations with their franchises, and viewers know what to expect from each game, as a result. Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata still remain big draws, but with enough star-power packed in, Bangalore has managed to pull in a sizeable viewer base too.

 

Equally importantly, this has been a clean season, with no controversies on or off the field. The focus has been more on the cricket and cricketing entertainment, than on the frills that tend to spice up IPL on the face of it, but have damaged its core from within in the past.

 

You may not be a big fan of the IPL. But you cannot deny the success story that it has proven to be, and the way it has impacted two ends of its stakeholders – the cricket community (players and boards), in whose life IPL is a very significant factor, and television viewers, who continue to be entertained year after year, even as mainstream television entertainment continues to test their patience.

 

So, more power to IPL. May the two remaining games, tonight and this Sunday, cap off its best season so far.

 

 

 

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