Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
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IPL Media Rights: Why Success Of Gujarat Titans, Lucknow Super Giants Will Attract Big Spenders

Broadcasters and brands are expected to break their bank to win the IPL media rights for the next five years.

IPL’s soaring popularity has been reinforced by the success of IPL 2022.
IPL’s soaring popularity has been reinforced by the success of IPL 2022. IPL

After Nikhat Zareen won a historic boxing world championship gold in Istanbul last month, one of her first reactions to the media was, “Am I trending on Twitter?” A journalist, part of a group on a Zoom call with the excited boxer, hastily replied, “Yes, you are.” Actually, Nikhat wasn’t trending either on social media or Google at all.

Interestingly, the same time Nikhat was punching her way to a rare gold medal for India in women’s boxing, Gujarat Titans were batting against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. Close to four million people were watching the live streaming of the IPL 2022 league match. Nikhat’s bout was not available on TV or streaming in India. Die-hard boxing fans could see the fight only on YouTube.

This stark contrast in public awareness of a gold-winning feat by Nikhat Zareen versus viewership of a regular IPL match is a clear reflection of what an average Indian sports fan loves. The buck starts and stops with cricket and in a materialistic world, IPL is the cherry on the cake.

Gujarat Titans winning the IPL on debut has surely added competitive edge to the world’s biggest T20 cricket tournament. Gujarat Titans have not only provided Ahmedabad a new identity but it has given their captain Hardik Pandya’s injury-prone career a new lease of life.

IPL 2022 will be a watershed for BCCI. Two new teams – Lucknow Super Giants were the other – making the last-four stage of the 10-team tournament will reinforce the belief that sky is the limit for Brand IPL. It can’t do anything wrong.

Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, who have 10 IPL titles among them, not making the playoffs is being seen as a positive sign.

EXTRA EDGE

“It is good for the league as it demonstrates how competitive the IPL has become where there are no clear favourites to win the league. The two new teams (GT and LSG) might struggle to get a pan-India fan following but eventually their on-field performances will matter and consistent results might help in enhancing their pan-India appeal,” says Harsh Talikoti, director, D and P Advisory.

Gujarat Titans winning the IPL on debut is a positive sign, say experts.
Gujarat Titans winning the IPL on debut is a positive sign, say experts. IPL

“Both teams have a very balanced and young cricketing team which will help engage young fans and build a Next Gen community,” observes Vinit Karnik, head of sports and entertainment, GroupM, South Asia. The success of new teams will also have a positive impact on the up for sale IPL media rights.

With more matches and advertisement slots on offer, the new cycle (2023-2027) of IPL media rights is expected to cross all records and experts feel the value could touch a staggering 50,000 Crores. BCCI has already earmarked a base price of Rs 32,890 Crores, nearly double of what STAR Sports paid BCCI five years ago.

OVERSEAS INTEREST

“A 10-team IPL has only enhanced the brand value of IPL for the kind of interest it garnered from some of the top corporate and private equity companies from India and around the world,” points out Karnik. During the bidding of the new teams, Manchester United and an NFL team from the United States had reportedly shown interest. Top NFL and NBA stars are already invested in Rajasthan Royals.

Experts believe that logic and mathematics don’t always work when it comes to bidding for IPL media rights. While companies do need to look at their balance sheet, Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director of Rediffusion, says: “The wild optimism of BCCI is more tempered, I think. But bidding for the IPL media rights is as much bragging as it is business.”

Talikoti says the dip in TV viewership will not impact the rights. “The IPL media rights will be sold as a bundle (TV and digital) and given that numerous parties are already interested, it will clearly surpass its base price,” he says.

“TV is a static if not a negative audience pull medium today. Digital (OTT) is it. I do not believe this (dip in viewership) will affect bidding rates. This is a 35,000-crore property out on bid. I will not be surprised if it attracts a 50,000-bid winner,” predicts Harish Bijoor, a business and brand-strategy expert.

GAME FOR BUSINESS

But there are some apprehensions. Who will shell out big monies to IPL media rights holders, especially TV and OTT?

The doubts stem from the fact that the online gaming industry, the major spenders on Indian cricket, are a worried lot. The government is mulling a 28% GST on the overall revenue a platform gets. Currently, platforms pay 18% of GGR (gross gaming revenue - difference between the amount wagered minus the amount won).

It is expected online gaming brands will continue to spend big.
It is expected online gaming brands will continue to spend big. IPL

There has been a massive rise in offshore gambling and betting sites openly advertising their wares in Indian media. The government is not amused and keeping a close eye on the activities of these companies. That leaves edu-tech and fin-tech companies to spend big bucks. But here again, the government is not a fan of NFTs or cryptocurrency.

But that’s not a problem, feels Goyal.

“It won’t soften the business of the fantasy leagues but yes it will bring in more monies into government coffers. The fantasy leagues are all half a step short of low value gambling - there is hardly any skill involved. The whole premise is that every year there will be a new sucker who wants to grab instant fame. So, some soonicorn (soon-to-be-unicorn) or unicorn will always be there willing to pay and burn monies,” said Goyal.

There surely is a cricket overkill but no is complaining. Certainly not the Richie-rich BCCI, waiting to make another giant ‘kill.’

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