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IPL 14 suspension: Not-so-strategic timeout for fantasy sports platforms like Dream11, MPL

Though they will now have to look at other sports leagues and events, the IPL traction is incomparable, say experts. The fantasy sports industry could see an 80 percent dip in revenues since most action happens in IPL. This market saw gross revenues growing from Rs 920 crore in FY19 to Rs 2,400 crore in FY20.

May 07, 2021 / 05:46 PM IST
Organisers of the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League have announced the suspension of the League with immediate effect. This comes amidst the rise of the COVID-19 cases within the teams in just the past few days.

Organisers of the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League have announced the suspension of the League with immediate effect. This comes amidst the rise of the COVID-19 cases within the teams in just the past few days.

The suspension of the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has put a pause on the growth of the online fantasy sports sector, which has seen a significant growth in the last few years.

Fantasy sports is a form of skill-based online sports, in which a sports fan creates his/her own team comprising real-life players from upcoming games. These virtual teams accumulate points based on the actual statistical performance of players during real-life match and winners are declared accordingly.

The fantasy sports market saw its gross revenues growing from Rs 920 crore in FY19 to Rs 2,400 crore in FY20, according to a FIFS-KPMG 2020 report. A lot of credit to this growth can be attributed to the IPL as it is one of the most popular leagues with platforms like Dream11, Mobile Premier League (MPL), MyTeam11, among others.

Now, with IPL 14 getting postponed, both industry players and experts said that the fantasy sports industry will have a tough time.

“The suspension will send shock waves across the fantasy industry since the IPL is the biggest event. There could be an 80 percent dip in revenues for the fantasy space since most action happens in IPL for fantasy (sports platforms),” Prashanth Joshua Mandapalli, CEO, Mobius, a game development company, told Moneycontrol.

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According to Roland Landers, CEO, All India Gaming Federation, a pause on the league will have an impact on both the top line and revenues of fantasy sports platforms.

"The IPL is one of the most lucrative and valued sports leagues in the world and most major brands associate with it to reach their target audiences and drive engagement," he said.

Player pangs

Even Mitesh Gangar, Co-founder and director of PlayerzPot, a fantasy sports platform, said: "The impact of IPL14 suspension will be huge for us since the IPL is always the best time for user acquisition and activation. From the start of the IPL, we were doing good in terms of acquiring new users and scaling up revenue growth. But this suspension will bring a halt to our momentum."

Gangar pointed out that on PlayerzPot, traction was strong during IPL 14, which started on April 9.

“From the start of IPL 14 this year, we saw 3X growth in user registrations per day and 2X growth in revenue as compared to the previous month (March). If we compare the traction with IPL13, we were able to see more than 100 percent growth in approximately 20-25 days of the IPL14,” he said.

The story is similar for other platforms.

Vinit Godara, Co-founder and CEO, Myteam11 Fantasy Sports Pvt Ltd, said that he saw an immediate spike of 20 percent in new users during IPL 14 in less than a month’s time.

“Every year, during the league, we experience maximum engagement among our users, compared to the rest of the year. However, a sudden suspension of one of the most impactful leagues is bound to affect business," he added.

Another fantasy sports platform, My11Circle, which was aggressively advertising during IPL 14, also launched a new campaign called the ‘₹ 1 to ₹ 1 crore’ campaign, which allowed players to enter the contest by paying Re 1 as fee and the most-skilled player would win Rs 1 crore every day during the T20 league.

Saroj Panigrahi, Vice President, My11Circle, the fantasy sports platform owned by Games24x7, said: “The proposition received an overwhelming response from cricket lovers. We saw over 500 percent growth, pre-IPL to IPL 2021, in player engagement as people are looking for in-house entertainment during the pandemic."

“The suspension will surely have a short-term effect on the business,” he said.

So, what is the way forward for these platforms ?

The way forward

"There are a few other series going on in other parts of the world. Of course, the IPL traction cannot be compared but still these sporting events will help us run our show smoothly," said Gangar.

Along with this, Playerzpot has started other casual gaming sections where they offer games like Snake and Ladder, Ludo, Sheep Fight, Housie Quiz and General Quiz. Gangar said that the focus of the platform will be to keep users engaged with these games, along with sporting events, to continue getting traction from fantasy sports players.

When it comes to sporting events on which the fantasy sports platforms are banking, it includes Prague T10, Pakistan tour of Zimbabwe (Test), St Lucia Blast T10, UEFA Euro Championship, among others.

While cricket is the star performer for fantasy sports platforms, many are focussing on other sports like football and kabaddi, too.

Saurabh Chopra, CEO, BalleBaazi.com, said: “Stay committed in offering a wide range of sports like kabaddi, football, basketball and baseball.”

Adding to this, Mandapalli said: "Given that fantasy apps spend more than Rs 100 crore in marketing through the entire season of IPL, which doesn't seem to happen now, it will boost activity on other games like rummy, poker, esports and social gaming.”

"Fantasy (sports platforms) can look at the upcoming Olympics," he added. However, even Tokyo Olympics is riding on uncertain territory, Mandapalli added.

Cricket is key

While online fantasy sports platforms are looking at other games and sporting events to offset the negative impact from the suspension of IPL 14, no other event or game would give them similar traction.

Even last year, it was IPL 13 that helped in the growth of the fantasy sports industry.

According to an EY 2021 report, fantasy sports grew 24 percent in 2020 on the back of IPL season 13. This year, it was expected that the fantasy sports user base would reach 150 million from 100 million.

But due to IPL 14's suspension, it looks like the fantasy sports space will have a tough time this year.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: May 7, 2021 05:46 pm