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CASBAA Convention 09: Of sports in India, and Lalit Modi’s IPL

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CASBAA Convention 09: Of sports in India, and Lalit Modi’s IPL

The CASBAA Convention 2009 completed the deliberations and discussions part of the conference on November 5. The day was dedicated to the condition of Pay TV in China and to sports as a property in India, and the impact that it has had on Pay TV. The closing keynote speaker of the day was IPL’s Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi, who took the audience through the Indian Premier League experience.

Modi began his address by quoting sportsman Isaac Newton on the phenomenon of English Premier League that took forward the popular game of football, created the loyalty of city-specific teams and was delivered to households by Pay TV. He said, “This should give you many clues into how IPL began and was put together. It was my dream for a very long time that India should enjoy this kind of cricket, too, and the natural step for us was to have capitalised on the cricket frenzy in the nation.”

He explained that the idea was to be able to identify a pent up desire and then find a way of addressing that. The idea of IPL found its ground, but to give it wings, a good script and the idea alone were not enough. The most important part of the plan had to be attention to all the details and to find a way to make IPL a winning experience for all involved.

Modi admitted that the beginning of the idea was not easy. Cricket and sports critics called IPL a cricket circus. “Yes, it is a different style of cricket and it is entertaining, but the success of IPL was significantly based on the fact that it had real cricket. The first rule of the game was that it had to be a cricketing property through and through and hence, had to have the best sportsmen around the world,” he stressed.

The second rule was no gimmicks and the attempt to instill city-specific rivalries to give the game its own sense of following, especially in light of the fact that nation-loyalty would be missing in IPL. The BCCI opted for the franchise model for this and that was preceded by strenuous research on the model. “Nowhere in the world did we find a system where both the players and the franchises made the money and that had to be addressed in our model. At the same time, it was important that all teams are competent and there was no one team that had the best players. This was addressed by putting a minimum and a maximum cap during the teams’ auction.”

The next that made a difference to IPL was the added celebrity quotient when the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Priety Zinta and later Shilpa Shetty were added to the mix. This was further strengthened by getting corporate celebrities like Vijay Mallya, Mukesh and Nita Ambani included in the overall experience.

At the ground level, the first feel of what the IPL could be came from the auction itself. “We knew we had hit something big in the first auction in 2008 as well and the manner in which it was followed,” observed Modi.

To top this all was the campaign around the event that built on creating city-specific rivalries. Every ingredient contributed towards creating the final dose of the IPL and the unprecedented impact that it had on television viewing, advertising spends and cricket as a property in India and worldwide.

Modi’s list of to-dos is longer for the next year and top of this list is to curtail the piracy of IPL content. According to him, 2,800 hours of IPL were pirated last year alone and the BCCI’s attempt was to address that as well.

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