Shailesh Kapoor: IPL 2018: Much The Same, Yet Much To Anticipate

06 Apr,2018

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

The big cricket extravaganza starts tomorrow. IPL completes 10 years from its 2008 launch, and the 11th edition will be flagged off Saturday night in Mumbai.

 

IPL is now a fixture in India’s annual sporting and entertainment calendar. Many other industries, especially television and films, would earlier worry about IPL disrupting their lives. While these worries have not vanished over the years, they have considerably reduced in their quantum.

 

IPL 2018, then, should be like any other IPL. And it may as well turn out to be that way. But there are at least some factors that have the potential to provide novelty and higher anticipation value this year. The most significant of them is the change of hands in the television broadcaster, with the league moving from Sony to Star Sports this year.

 

Sony did a fine job of handling IPL over a decade, building it meticulously through several campaigns that ranged from cheesy to pure brilliant. They never put IPL on an ‘auto mode’.

 

But who doesn’t want a change, once in a few years at least. Star Sports has been eyeing the IPL rights for a while now, and when the opportunity opened up last year, they were quick to pounce on it. The pre- and post-match programming line-up and the commentary stance by the network will only be known this weekend. But with a track record of innovation behind them, one can bank on Star Sports to come up with original ideas on that front.

 

This is also one of the few IPLs where the Indian team comes off a proper break. The little tri-series in Sri Lanka happened three weeks ago. And the last series of real intensity, with a full team line-up, was against South Africa, ending in mid-February. Some of the past IPLs have happened with the team literally ending a tournament and walking into the IPL, with less than a week in between. This seemingly small but significant gap helps charge things up, both for the players and the fans.

 

Of course, the consistent performance of the Indian national team has been a plus for IPL over the last 3-4 years now. But over the last two years, the emergence of ViratKohli as a superstar has provided a further boost to the interest in the league. He has grown from strength to strength every year, and there’s a considerable fan base who will tune into IPL only on the back of his appeal.

 

This will also be an important year for the digital side of IPL broadcasting. For the first time, the same network has both the digital and the television rights. How Star gets them to feed off each other will be interesting to see. Video usage on the Internet has been on an ascendency in India, and one can expect the Hotstar numbers to multiply vis-à-vis 2017.

 

So, much as it’s just another IPL, there’s much to look forward to this year.

 

 

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