15 Nov

The 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) season attracted a record audience across television and digital platforms. 

Viewership data from television monitoring agency the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) for 58 of this year’s 60 IPL games showed a 24 per cent increase from the 2019 edition of the franchise T20 tournament. For those 58 matches, a cumulative 383 billion minutes were watched. 

The IPL made a strong start to its 2020 season when a record 200 million viewers tuned in for the opening match between the Chennai Super Kings and eventual tournament winners the Mumbai Indians. 

Star India is the IPL’s global broadcast partner under a deal worth I₹16,347 crore ($2.1 billion) that runs until the end of the 2022 competition. The Disney-owned media company has sold on the rights in territories where the IPL is popular, including Australia and the UK. The increase in viewership can partly be attributed to the IPL moving this year’s delayed season to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), meaning India’s ardent cricket fanbase could only follow the tournament by watching on Star. All games were played behind closed doors. 

The surge in viewership has also boosted the IPL’s advertising revenue. Though no official figures have been released, the Media Partners Asia consultancy has estimated that total advertising income rose ten per cent from last year, coming to more than US$400 million, after Disney increased rates ahead of the tournament. 

“It has gone on to become probably the most successful IPL tournament ever,” Uday Shankar, Disney’s president of Asia-Pacific, told the Financial Times. “Coming on the back of the massive disruption of the economy and the advertising market, there was a real concern. “We knew people were hungry for IPL and would consume it but we were not sure how much would be the appetite from the advertisers. But even that was absolutely astounding.” 

Meanwhile, national governing body the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is planning to add to the number of franchises in the IPL, according to The Times of India. The newspaper reports that while the organisation ‘does have the necessary space, ecosystem and financial foresight to proceed with the move’, it is yet to decide on whether one or two new franchises should be allowed to compete in the competition.

 According to the report, IPL stakeholders believe increasing the number of teams will require the BCCI to implement several policy changes. Currently, each franchise is permitted to have a squad made up of 18 to 25 players, including a maximum of eight from overseas. However, there is concern amongst teams about the difficulty already to ensure quality across the league, something that would likely be compounded by the addition of extra sides. 

To avoid quality being further diluted, The Times of India report cites a suggestion from a BCCI official to increase the number of overseas players in each team’s starting line up from four to five. Many in the BCCI could resist such a motion for fear of preventing domestic players from competing in the IPL. 

Expanding the league also means the BCCI will have to consider its media rights agreement with Star. The Times of India reports that the organisation would need to check if its current deal accounts for increasing the number of games to 76, should the IPL add one more team, or 91, if the leagues adds two teams. 

More teams could mean a format shakeup to the IPL in order to prevent the addition of too many extra days required to fulfil all fixtures which in turn would impact the global schedules of the elite players. 

John Stephenson 


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