Shailesh Kapoor: Bang for the Buck

31 Mar,2023

By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorIt’s that time of the year again… the IPL time. The 16th edition starts tonight, and like every year, is set to become the marquee media event for its seven-week length. The big change this year is that the digital stream is available free. Unlike Disney+ Hotstar in recent years, JioCinema has decided to take the ad-supported route for IPL broadcast on OTT. This decision can have a significant impact on the future of sports broadcast in India, in both linear and non-linear forms.


This year’s IPL was preceded by the inaugural season of Women’s Premier League (WPL), which was won by Mumbai Indians last Sunday. WPL is a significantly leap for women’s cricket in India, especially because of the kind of money that is on offer via contracts and prizes. While the Mumbai Indians team owner Nita Ambani spoke about how this will help sportswomen in India across sports (Mumbai Indians carried front page ads the next morning with the same message), the impact outside cricket seems tenuous as of now.


There was a time when the success of an IPL edition depended on the cricketing action itself. Low-scoring games struggled to match up to the bigger games on ratings, for example. In the recent editions though, each franchise, and hence each clash, brings with it a certain minimum guaranteed viewership, because of the inherent fan base. This is especially true for games involving Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders, who have amassed a solid fan base over time. Gujarat Titans, winners in their first outing last year, are a strong candidate to join this list.


But it is very likely that linear TV viewership may see a drop this year, because of the SVOD to AVOD shift on OTT. What makes this ‘competition’ between TV and OTT interesting is that it is real competition this time, because there are major media companies involved (unlike Disney controlling both aspects till last year). In the absence of any public numbers on OTT, this can trigger off a major war of claims and counterclaims.


The advertiser interest in IPL has peaked over the years, simply because other marquee properties, like big reality shows, have not been able to consolidate ratings over time. There’s nothing else big-ticket enough on Indian television to offer IPL any competition to it. And IPL is literally the only ‘pan India’ property in the home entertainment space.


Let the drums roll, then!


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