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NEW DELHI: After delivering a successful edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020, Star India Ltd faces the challenge of a repeat in the 14th season of the league scheduled to kickstart from 9 April.

While the summer season and positive consumer sentiment seem to be in favour of the official broadcaster of the T20 league, industry executives are divided on whether Star will be to attract advertising, investments and viewership numbers seen in IPL 2020.

To be sure, the 13th edition of IPL held in UAE was watched by 405 million viewers for a total of 400 billion viewing minutes, which was up 23% on year, as per data provided by TV ratings agency Barc India.

According to a senior media buyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, it is unlikely that IPL 2021 viewership will match the last year's levels due to the fact that people then were starved of live cricket. Additionally, there were restrictions on movement and other avenues of entertainment--movie theatres and restaurants--were largely closed which worked in favour of the league.

"None of it holds true now. On top of it, advertisers have a challenge in earmarking huge budgets for IPL given that unlike 2020 we are looking at a normal year where the ad investments need to be spread over the entire year. Therefore, there are many fence sitters that are still unsure of their IPL investment size," said the executive quoted above.

Mansi Datta, chief client officer and head north and east at media agency Wavemaker India, however, said there's an interest from clients when it comes to IPL.

"The biggest litmus test for a league like IPL is how quickly the sponsorships are sold and from what we have known so far Star is in a good position for the upcoming edition, " she added.

Star India is confident about the popularity and reach of the T20 cricket property. The network has raised the ad slot rates to 13 lakh from 11-12 lakh per 10-second.

The official broadcaster claimed that advertisers see great value in the property and continue to be associated with it. So far, the network has managed to sign on sponsors, including Byju’s, Phone Pe, Just Dial, Frooti, Dream11, Livguard, SBI, Kamla Pasand, Bingo, and Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi).

Star said it has been witnessing significant interest from multiple brand categories including edtech, fantasy sports, FMCG, beverages, financial services, pay wallets and home décor among others.

“Our continued investment in the regional portfolio and the overall reach of the property makes it a perfect opportunity for brands to leverage. The interest amongst advertisers for the April window has been significantly high, this includes the new-age brands, start-ups, and the traditional advertisers. The summer focused categories from beverages to white goods are back too. We have had a great response from the market and sold out almost all sponsorship slots as well as a large number of spot buys across categories," said Anil Jayaraj, executive vice president – ad sales, Star Sports.

Last year, Star Sports brought 18 sponsors and 114 advertisers on television while a total of 13 sponsors and over 230 advertisers were signed on its video streaming platform Disney+Hotstar. The network reportedly hit Rs2,500 crore in revenue in 2020.

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