A day after Lalit Modi talked up the IPL as among the top five sports brands in the world, comes this story.
A Viewertrack report published by the independent global sports consultancy Futures Sport+Entertainment shows an average 20 percent fall in viewership across five major cricket-playing countries – India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Britain.
Taken individually, the only exception was South Africa where audiences grew by more than 80 percent on account of the country hosting the IPL this year following the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. There was a fall in the other four markets.
What should worry those seeking to build a global brand, however, is not the overall drop in viewer figures, but this other statistic:
In terms of market share, India registered a massive 96 percent for both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, while South Africa’s share rose from two to three percent.
But Australia’s share shrank from two to one percent after a switch from free-to-air to pay TV, and for the second year running audiences in England and New Zealand remained so small they accounted for zero percent when rounded to the nearest percentage point.
The key takeaway here would be that despite the presence of foreign stars in each of the eight franchises, the IPL has not managed to build significant fan bases in markets outside India. Couple that with the fact that even India has shown the effects of viewer fatigue, with IPL-2 numbers dropping below IPL-1 levels, and the management of the franchise has a huge headache on its hands.
“There is substantial scope for growth in the international popularity of the format, and consequently in the revenues that could accrue to all relevant parties,” it says.
“Having a format that is relevant and compelling is critical, and the relatively small TV audiences drawn by the IPL in international markets suggests that the IPL has not yet cracked the formula for attracting fans the world over.”…
Alavy said cricket fans in Australia and Britain watched the recent World Twenty20 Cup more than the IPL.
“Hence a big challenge for IPL will be how to build an international supporter base, with fans feeling an allegiance to particular franchises, rather than merely their favourite players,” the reports said.
One key to a possible solution could lie in the fact that more fans in Britain and Australia watched the World Cup than IPL. Patriotism is one reason for sure — but another crucial one could well be the extended, ennui-inducing nature of the IPL schedule.
For now, the IPL is headed in the exact opposite direction, with its focus firmly on finding new marketing opportunities to milk rather than on rationalizing the tournament itself.
Strategic time outs a bad idea? No problem, Modi said recently, we will now complicate things even further by introducing two of the things in each innings. He also announced that IPL-3 will have slots for three more ‘official sponsors’, three additional ‘associate partners’, and sponsors for the orange cap for best batsman and purple cap for best sponsor [I bet the commentators just can’t wait — ‘Mathew Hayden’s 50 which gets him the orange cap has been brought to you by Pantaloon’]. Also on the anvil are tenders to be floated for ‘theatrical rights’ [Eh? I thought Ravi Shastri had cornered the market on that one], merchandising licenses et al.
All of that is just next year — the real fun begins in 2011, when two new franchises get added to the mix and, hold your breath, the IPL expands into 90 games.
I could be wrong, but my gut feel is season three will continue the viewer slide of season two while further elevating the IPL on the one scale that matters to Modi: money. Somewhere around the corner, likely at the fag end of season 3, there could be some fresh-brewed coffee waiting to be smelt.