Home >Industry >Advertising >Star braces for impact as cricket board suspends IPL

India’s cricket body on Tuesday indefinitely suspended the world’s most popular T20 cricket tournament after some players contracted covid-19 amid a devastating second wave of the pandemic.

The move will hit the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) official broadcast partner Star India, which had onboarded 18 sponsors and more than 100 advertisers across multiple brands for the tournament. It included both new-age brands such as Dream11, Byju’s and Cred, and traditional advertisers such as Frooti, Asian Paints, Thums Up, Vodafone-Idea and Mondelez.

Two media buyers said on condition of anonymity that Star India could lose up to 2,000 crore if the league gets cancelled.

Players from IPL team franchises Delhi Capitals, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad have been affected by covid, with batsmen, bowlers, coaches and support staff testing positive despite strict bio-bubbles put in place by all the teams.

In an advisory, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said the decision was taken in view of the safety, health and well-being of all stakeholders. “These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times. The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021," it said.

Ahead of the tournament, Star India had increased ad slot rates to 13 lakh this year from 11-12 lakh per 10-second, with an aim to cross its 2020 revenue of 2,500 crore. However, the raging second wave of covid-19 dampened overall viewer sentiment with TV viewership, dropping in double digits in the first two weeks starting 9 April.

“Star India supports BCCI’s decision to postpone IPL 2021. The health and safety of players, staff and everyone involved in the IPL are of paramount importance. We thank the BCCI, IPL Governing Council, players, franchisees and sponsors for their support. We are also indebted to our employees, on-air talent, production, and broadcast crews for trying their best to spread positivity by delivering the broadcast of IPL 2021 to millions of homes in the face of challenging circumstances," the Star network said in a statement.

Star will face the biggest impact from the tournament’s suspension as advertisers are under no liability to pay the broadcaster if the matches are not held, said Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, a Mumbai-based marketing and communication agency.

“The network is likely to pay BCCI the annual broadcast sponsorship money as well since most insurance contracts don’t cover suspension of tournaments," he added.

Since the future of the tournament is uncertain, Star India is unlikely to be able to charge a high cancellation fee which often deters advertisers from pulling advertising.

“Right now, Star’s strategy would be to convince advertisers that IPL is on a pause. For small advertisers that take up spot buys, it can renegotiate to move their ad inventory to non-IPL content. If the league stretches to June, then some advertisers can also cite quarter change as a reason to back out. At this point, most advertisers will take a wait-and-watch approach," said Shradha Agarwal, strategy head and chief operating officer, Grapes Digital, a digital-first agency.

For IPL team franchises, the immediate impact will be on multiple short-term digital deals signed with brands. Most of these deals include online promotions, content activity and promotions. MX Taka Tak, for instance, partnered with seven teams as their official short-form video partner to create content and challenges around cricketers and teams.

“We are expecting at least two weeks of suspension, which is a long period for brands that have signed short-term digital deals. In the worst-case scenario, if the league is cancelled, then one-year sponsorship deals will get severely impacted," an executive in one of the IPL teams said on condition of anonymity.

Fantasy sports platforms such as Dream 11, MPL, and My11Circle, which solely depend on live matches, will also be hit in terms of downloads and user traction as there won’t be any real money gaming happening on these platforms.

Mint earlier reported that these platforms were collectively spending upwards of 200 crore in high-decibel advertising to maintain top-of-mind recall among viewers across Star India’s TV network and streaming platform Disney+Hotstar.

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