When Star India bought the rights of the Indian Premier League, it was expected that the property would help propel the broadcaster to new heights. But the COVID-19 pandemic has queered the pitch for the broadcaster, stunting its efforts to achieve revenue targets from the marquee property.
Although the matches will be played in the UAE sans spectators, the viewership figures are expected to surpass previous records and that bodes well for Star.
But that does not necessarily mean that it will be able to hawk advertising rates in the same vein.
The exit of Vivo as this year’s title sponsor indicates that the Chinese handset manufacturers, who used to spend heavily during cricket broadcast events, will most likely stay out considering the prevalent anti-Chinese sentiments.
Star on its part has signed on the likes of Amazon, Dream11 and PhonePe as co-presenting sponsors while it is in talks with brands across categories including auto, gaming, education, consumer durables, FMCG and e-commerce.
"Dream 11 IPL will be the biggest platform available for marketers during this festive season. IPL has always been the most awaited sporting event and the anticipation is even higher this year as most viewers are homebound. This combined with the early start of matches and Star Sports’ continued investment in regional channels gives us the confidence that this will by far be the biggest IPL ever. Brands are in active conversation with us for Dream11 IPL as it is the perfect time for them to take advantage of increased consumer spends during this festive season," said Gautam Thakar, CEO - Star Sports.
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But the challenge for Star is whether it will be able to rake in over Rs 3,500 crore in advertising revenues in a pandemic-hit market.
Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and angel investor, feels eventually the broadcaster will be able to reach its desired target from this year's edition.
"A lot of advertisers are in wait-and-watch mode. Many people are also concerned about the quality of the tournament given the uncertainty surrounding the availability of many top international players. Since the viewership is going to be far bigger than previous editions and the fact that people have been deprived of live quality sports games for a long time will help in getting them the desired numbers," he told Moneycontrol.
Mathias added that not every brand will wait till the last moment to book their slots although some brands will fork out a premium for the later stages of the tournament.
Considering the fact that the pandemic has changed a lot of things in the business world, will Star now get a bang for the massive bucks it paid to BCCI for the rights?
"Star made a reasonable calculation when it bought the rights. It was one of the few marquee properties which they did not have. A property Iike IPL helps build the broadcasting network in general. When Star launched KBC in 2000, it took the opportunity to revamp its portfolio of channels on the back of that show. The objective behind investing in these big properties is to propel other shows," he said.Follow our coverage of the coronavirus crisis here