Mumbai: Uncertainty over dates, locations and broadcaster of the second season of Indian Premier League (IPL) is holding up media buying plans.
Advertizers and media planners told Mint that they do not know whether they would have to renegotiate ad deals if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the owner of IPL, changes the broadcaster for the widely viewed 20-over cricket tournament.
Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd’s Sony Max, which aired the first season on television, has moved court against BCCI to stop it from shifting telecast partners.
Even if the boradcaster remains the same, media buyers are concerned that a shorter schedule that packs in more matches in a day would splinter audiences and make the high ad rates unattractive.
The Indian government has twice rejected schedules suggested by the organizers on security concerns as the event overlaps the general election to be held in five phases between 16 April and 13 May. BCCI is now preparing a new schedule.
IPL sponsors such as Hyundai Motor India Ltd are particularly concerned that their contracts would become void if the broadcaster changes.
“We are naturally concerned about our sponsorship for the series and there’s no word from Sony at this moment,’’ says G. Sanjay, deputy general manager, marketing and sales, Hyundai Motor India.
Advertisers who have booked ads around the IPL are already making alternate plans in case the event is cancelled altogether, said media buyer Shashi Sinha, chief executive of Lodestar Universal Pvt. Ltd.
“Given the chaos surrounding the IPL, many advertisers could jump ship and get on to the elections (coverage) bandwagon or look for other high-impact properties,” said Sanjay Tripathy, executive vice-president and head of marketing at HDFC Standard Life Insurance Pvt Ltd.
Sinha also said some of the ad money pledged on the IPL may be diverted to new shows being launched by general entertainment channels, while others may look to invest more on the coverage of the general elections.
Even if Sony Max keeps its rights to beam the IPL, the confusion and security issues would make it tough for the broadcaster to charge the rates it has been getting in the past for the remaining time slots, a media buyer said on condition of anonymity.
Sony Max sold a 10-second spot for Rs2.5 lakh last year, and has hiked it to Rs3.5 lakh for the second season.
Rohit Gupta, president, network sales and revenue management of Multi Screen Media, declined to comment on anything related to the IPL. The league’s chief executive Sundar Raman did not take calls.
Media specialists such as Lodestar’s Sinha are concerned that a reshuffling of the play calendar, in which more games would be squeezed in a day, would split viewing audiences.
“Earlier we were under the impression that it would be 59 games played out in 45 days. Now they could try and finish the games in a shorter period where you may even see more than two games in a single day. The audience would be truncated,” Sinha said.
Brand strategy, which calls for long-term planning of advertising and marketing spends and activities, is also taking a hit. Shubha George, managing director of Mumbai-based media agency Mediaedge:cia, a part of GroupM India Pvt. Ltd, said her prime concern was for clients who planned have consumer activation plans around the IPL.
Consumer activation is an industry term for so-called non-traditional advertising such as organizing contests, events or promotions that typically calls for a fair amount of logistics planning.
“For brands that are planning activation attempts linked to the IPL, it’s a bit difficult to put those programmes together at short notice,” George said. In her view, if the IPL event is scrapped or delayed till September, then brands may be forced to redo consumer contact programmes, which may not work optimally for the brands.