IPL 2019 scheduling may spell disaster for broadcaster, franchises

The annual T-20 extravaganza, the Indian Premier League, is a marquee event not just for players and followers of the game, but also for most advertisers to boost visibility for and at times, sales of their products and services. The tournament has been used as a launch pad for many a brand. However, a lot of the success brands see with their campaigns on the IPL hinges on the fact that it is a domestic tournament, taking place across the country.

With the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) being hit with a double whammy in terms of scheduling the 2019 edition of the tournament, there are concerns on the advertising billing from the IPL this time. With the ICC Cricket World Cup set to take place from May 30 to July 14 in England and Wales in 2019, the IPL will have to take place earlier than its usual April-May window. On the other hand, an earlier IPL would clash with the general elections slotted to take place next year.

The IPL has, in the past, partially or fully shifted to an overseas venue when elections have coincided with its schedule. In 2009, it was held in South Africa and more recently, in 2014, it was partially shifted to the UAE. This, in turn, gives rise to a variety of issues for different participants in the IPL eco-system.

For one, franchise owners incur a higher cost of team maintenance when the tournament travels abroad. “While some franchises have partnerships and associations which help reduce the cost of travel and stay, the fact remains that cost increase when the tournament travels overseas. The BCCI may or may not compensate the franchises in part,” says an executive with a franchise.

Perhaps the broadcaster, Star India, faces the biggest threat, since advertising revenues may take a hit. “The biggest issue will be the timings. If it’s UAE, then it’s not a big lag. But South Africa could mean that the usual 4 pm and 8 pm slots for the matches may not be possible. Advertisers may not want to pay big bucks for spots on the IPL if the matches are not at prime time in India,” says a planner.

In 2014, when the IPL partially took place in the UAE, the then broadcaster Sony Pictures Network India (SPN) did manage to make the expected Rs 9 billion in advertising revenues from the tournament. Media reports suggest that the advertisers are in agreement with the broadcaster (Star India) to hold the IPL in India. However, the decision may not be in the hands of anyone associated with the IPL, as is evident from the events of the two previous elections.

Planners say it is too early to say predict what kind of impact IPL’s shift to an overseas location would have on Star India’s ad-revenues. In 2018, the broadcaster, who pays the BCCI approximately Rs 32 billion annually for the media rights, made an estimated Rs 30 billion through the telecast of the IPL.

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