On the field and off it: The big IPL year

08 Apr,2022



By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorThe biggest sporting event in India is currently underway. With each passing year, IPL seems to only grow in stature and brand value. This time, there are two new franchises, and the spectators are back in the stands too, albeit with a cap of 25 per cent. More franchises mean more matches and more talent on display, all of which eventually leads to higher monetization and valuation of brand IPL.


But the eyes this year are not just on the ongoing IPL but also on what’s to follow on the IPL front over the next few weeks. IPL broadcast rights are up for renewal, and we are set to see a fierce battle in the auctions scheduled for mid-year.


IPL is a crown jewel for Disney (Star), not just in India, but even worldwide. Hotstar, on the back of IPL, contributes more than 30 per cent to Disney+’s global subscriber base. Needless to say, Star India will stretch itself beyond its limits to retain both television and streaming rights.


But there’s the newly-merged entity that goes by the working title Zee-Sony, which is a serious contender. Sony has been down the IPL road before, being the first ones to put their money on it, when the league was only an experiment, not a proven success story. With the combined might of two big networks, Star India’s competition is tougher than it was five years ago.


Add Reliance (Viacom) to the mix, and we have a three-way tussle for IPL rights on the cards. BCCI’s decision to not go for combined bids this year makes things even more interesting, because it puts streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video into the reckoning, along with Google and Facebook.


No amount of speculation can prepare us what may eventually happen when the e-auction commences on June 12 this year. But whatever the outcome is, it will shape the landscape of the Indian media industry for the next few years, even the next decade.


The television industry is India has been struggling for relevance, despite being the medium with the highest reach, and by some margin too. IPL (and cricket in general) is one of the few things that keeps television relevant to the times, as far as media planning and buying goes. Digital viewership may have gone up, but television remains the dominant medium of sports consumption. The entire television industry, and the advertisers’ group (brands and media agencies), will be keenly awaiting the outcome.


Till then, there’s some real cricket on the grounds to keep us busy. For another seven weeks, the cricketing action will continue to enthrall millions across the nation. It will also act as a reminder for the potential bidders everyday, on how big the opportunity in front of them is.


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