Shailesh Kapoor: IPL’s Tenth Edition: The Past, The Present, The Future

31 Mar,2017

By Shailesh Kapoor


Come April 5, the tenth edition of the Indian Premiere League (IPL) starts. IPL has gone through its share of highs and low, both in equal measure, over the last nine years of its existence. The lows have been predominantly off-field, and in their own way, have contributed to building IPL’s imagery as a colorful, controversial and edgy brand.

IPL’s history can be divided into three distinct phases. 2008-2010 was what one can call the ‘Novelty Phase’. This is when everyone involved was still figuring out the IPL. Its impact was grossly under-estimated when it first came in. When it became clear that IPL is a big-ticket entertainment property, with the ability to get 3+ rating on an average match and a sizeable crowd to the stadia, recalibration happened across the board.

The ad rates were upped, the marketing push became more aggressive, the sponsor interest went up, TV channels started avoiding show launches in the IPL period, and Bollywood began to treat IPL as a graveyard period for big releases, despite May being a traditionally strong summer month.

The 2011-15 period was the ‘Settling-In Phase’, when everyone began to come to terms with IPL’s existence, making peace with it, in a way. IPL became ‘business as usual’, as the novelty wore off yet the event value remained. This was also a period of controversies and of muck being thrown around. Ratings dropped a bit, with 2011 in particular being impacted by fatigue of the long Cricket World Cup that preceded the league.

Last year, IPL had a fairly good season. Being the first season under the BARC India measurement system, comparing ratings would be a faulty thing to do. But the cricket was good and Kohli came into his own, boosting interest in the league. But if we go beyond specifics of what happened on the field in the individual games, IPL was slowly losing its ‘event value’ for the consumers since 2015. This phase is what one can call the ‘Stagnation Phase’.

Stagnation does not mean loss of interest or viewership. It simply means there’s little evolution, and status quo prevails. Nine years is a long time, and once the novelty and then the event-value wore off, the league has entered in a phase when growth, or even maintaining the numbers, will be a challenge.

In an ideal scenario, when IPL was in its Novelty Phase, the franchises should have focused a lot more on building a strong base of loyal fans, who would have ensured the event value never wears off even when the novelty does. Only two teams could do this to some extent, i.e., Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders. One of them is out of action for now.

Two other teams were partially successful. Mumbai Indians relied on Sachin Tendulkar’s unparalleled equity in the early years, but in the long run, could not build a fan base that’s truly loyal. Royal Challengers Bangalore, on the other hand, had support for its star players than the idea of the team itself.

Other teams struggled, most noticeable of them being the Delhi Daredevils. With no core fan base and a wide majority of viewers being casual and flirtatious, the league relied on its novel idea for a while. But long-term equity needs a deeper emotional connect with the viewers. In India cricket, it comes from a strong following of the national team, in what can be called ‘armchair patriotism’. IPL, however, is still driven by ‘entertainment’, which is highly ephemeral and extrinsic in the way it can create a viewer bond, if at all.

IPL has done a lot for Indian cricket and cricket worldwide. But we live in an era where the concept of loyalty is dying in general. There are high chances that IPL’s future is that of an ‘Entertainer’, than that of a fan-driven, passion-fuelingsporting league.

Yes, IPL is here to stay, probably for the next two decades, if not more. But can it do even more than just “stay”, is the real question.


Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.

Today's Top Stories