Noorings: And can there be an IPL without controversies

The very concept of pre-IPL coverage seems to thrive on controversies. If the first season was about the format, the second was about uncertainties around the broadcasting rights and the venue itself. And the third season has begun with its share of controversies – first allegations of excluding Pakistani players from the team auctions and then the very access of the games to news media.

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Feb 15, 2010 4:21 AM
Noorings: And can there be an IPL without controversies

Media frenzy prior to the Indian Premier League (IPL) seems to have evolved as a mantra of the game. If the first year was about the very concept of IPL, the auction of the players and the marketing build-up with the inclusion of celebrities and corporates, the second year was about broadcasting issues, venue issues and the stand-off between IPL authorities and various other organisations.

This year, the mela had begun with reports of allegations of Pakistani players being deliberately excluded. The latest hullabaloo is around the coverage and news media’s access to the games.

According to most news media, the IPL 2010 coverage terms are more restrictive than in the previous years. The coverage guidelines had created their share of distraction last year as well, but then common terms were agreed upon, and news channels followed those guidelines. However, the IPL management wants changes this year as well, and the proposed changes are not taken too well.

The way some media observers see it is that IPL authorities believe that news media was showing enough of IPL matches for viewers to manage without tuning in to the channel, and this had impacted the overall match ratings, which was the “problem”. Websites added to this so-called problem. The notion that news coverage can eat away into the overall match ratings has encouraged the IPL Board to issue tougher coverage guidelines for news media in 2010.

The 2010 guidelines restrict channels from using fresh footage and showing only up to 30 seconds per news bulletin, not exceeding 120 seconds per match; the overall limit is seven minutes for the day. The guidelines also ask for at least a 30-minute delay from the live telecast, in 2008, the agreed delay was five minutes. The list goes on and there are similar points to notice for other mediums such as magazines, where the definition now excludes all non-news magazines, including lifestyle, travel, etc.

exchange4media has already carried news on these restrictive guidelines that our readers have read, hence repeating all that is not needed here. However, the point that I found most interesting was on the digital side. Amongst other things, IPL guidelines state that there would be no ‘Live streaming’ on broadcasters’ own websites, too, which was allowed last year. And no display of deferred or archived footage on own or third party websites – the option of concurrent live with broadcaster’s signal has been removed too.

The approach of the overall IPL terms towards websites, where probably only a ‘bonafide news media website’ would have any access to IPL content, or that in future news content can only be obtained by certain publications if their organisations conform to specific rules governing media ownership (and the list goes on), would probably lead one to think that IPL authorities have something of their own in mind for the digital telecast of the matches. Not that that is a bad thing – in fact, for all we know, this would add to the points that have made IPL a success case study at the global level.

Whether it is by design or by destiny, every aspect that IPL officials want changed leads the news media to create more hype around the IPL. The Indian Broadcasting Foundation had issued a statement on February 11, asking for Ministry intervention in the stand-off between broadcasters and IPL authorities. Now, the development on this would be splashed all over. IPL, good or bad, would be discussed on what one gets to see or not. I wonder if the argument that soon the novelty factor of IPL would wear off and people would see it for the sport that it is would ever see any weight.

IPL may not be reinventing the concept already, being in the third season it is still very young to do so too, but it knows the art of getting people to react – angrily, with disbelief at times, at times pure disgust, but it follows the simple marketing mantra – keep your audience engaged.

As a cricket fan, who has a full time job, I despise the IPL for its audacity to make access to the matches this difficult. As a journalist, I question the IPL to have issued guidelines that restrict dissemination of information of a sport that even the I&B Ministry categorises as an event of national significance. But as someone who has the chance to speak to communications professionals and marketing experts, IPL rates high in my order of those who know how to create a brand, and keep growing it.

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