Advertisers such as Vodafone would tell you that at the beginning of the year, when the advertising monies had to be decided on the different available big-ticket properties, between Indian Premier League and the ICC Cricket World Cup, despite all changes made in the World Cup format to make it interesting to India as a market and advertisers in India, IPL was the safer bet.
But ICC Cricket World Cup’s changed format, pricing that was attractive, increase in ratings and India’s performance good enough to win the World Cup after 28 years, gave an experience of literally a lifetime for viewers. If World Cup 2011 would have been a disaster like 2007, the significance of IPL in a media plan would have been highlighted some more. But IPL in its fourth season has met with an unprecedented challenge – shine in the shadow of the World Cup.
Is it happening? Even if the numbers are as good as the last few seasons, the perception is on the basis of comparison with ICC Cricket World Cup’s quarters and semis and finals. An interesting conversation came up on this on Saturday, when some media agency friends from Mumbai were in Delhi, and in a conversation at a restaurant in South Delhi (it really started as a meeting of two and became a get-together of seven – Mumbai and Delhi included), a muted IPL match screen caught the attention of one of us. IPL was on, and except for one of the seven of us at the table, no one knew who was playing, who has been doing well in the series this far and the worst, not many knew who was in which team!
Yes, I know this does not speak very well for someone like me, who is supposed to be following media properties such as the IPL, given the big monies on it, and it would not look too good for people working in media agencies too. But the truth of the matter is that there is a lot happening in the media space today – on the screen from ‘Minority Report’, where at one point, a minimum of 10 things are priority on the To Watch Out For list, and you have to keep an eye on all of those 10 mini screens, and then there is a 20-screen second layer in place too.
One of the media agency people remarked casually that IPL was not so hot this season, and another one made a very heated case on how he was wrong. The IPL has to be the biggest thing that has happened to television in a really long time, and it is one of the few properties that began very big and stayed that big for a long time. And a few observations followed.
For the broadcaster, the monies Multi Screen Media (MSM) manages to make from the property – even if it was truly Rs 700 crore or around there – that is very close to the overall revenues that a Hindi general entertainment channel manages to make in the duration of the whole year.
For viewers, there is an alternate viewing option on days IPL is on and their favourite serial is perhaps undergoing a horrendous point in the story line, or there is nothing on news channels and sports channels, or there simply is nothing else to do.
For advertisers, there is no limit to the kind of relevant and effective marketing and consumer connect activities that can come up on the back of the IPL. And some advertisers have made their agencies work really hard to design creatives that can be aired during the IPL.
All valid observations, and then some more observations came up.
In a restaurant that perhaps had 250-odd people, not one complained or cared that the screen was muted. We looked around and not one table had heads checking out the screen. This was, like anything else, an indicator of the interest levels.
Where was/ is the buzz? True, there is advertising done by franchisees and teams, but where is the on-street, in-bars and restaurants excitement?
So, after half an hour of to-and-fro on the subject and my IPL-fan friend pointing out how it was a deal big enough for it to consume a chunk of our conversation, we all agreed to the safe conclusion that the media landscape in India has become a lot more competitive than many of us truly realise and that much like IPL has become a pain point for other high-end television properties, IPL, too, found another ‘entertainment ka baap’ in the World Cup, which in itself was a big gamble that had paid off this year. The only thing certain about our space now is that nothing is sure-shot. And don’t we all know it!