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BCCI’s Indian Premier League googly may stump Star India

Mumbai: After the successful completion of the Indian Premier League (IPL) during a global pandemic, the next season of the league in 2021 may reverse the fortunes of media rights holder Star India, if the Indian cricket board adds another franchise to the sporting extravaganza. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is gearing up to issue a tender document to auction one additional franchise for the league ahead of the 14th edition.

That will add one team and 16 matches to the league next year, taking the total number of matches to 76. In an unlikely case of the board deciding to add two teams, the total number of matches will go up to 94 in the current format, or 74 if the BCCI reverts to 2011 format, where there were 10 teams that played in two groups.

Addition of one team will increase Star India’s payment to the BCCI by ₹800 crore for the season. While having more matches should ideally increase Star India’s ad revenue, the need to hold more afternoon matches and the T20 World Cup next year could pose challenges in terms of ad rates.

“As per our contract with Star India, the BCCI can increase the number of teams as per its discretion and the rights holder will have to pay pro-rata basis for the extra matches,” said a senior BCCI insider with direct knowledge of the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Star India had acquired the global media rights for IPL for a five-year period starting 2018, for ₹16,347.5 crore. As per information sourced from the BCCI, Star’s winning bid was a front-loaded one, with payout for the first year at ₹4,333 crore, followed by ₹3,003 crore each for the subsequent years. For the 14th edition of the IPL, Star India’s per match payout will be ₹50.05 crore. Hence, for the additional 16 matches, the broadcaster will end up doling out ₹800.8 crore extra to the BCCI. A top source in Star India confirmed that the payout would increase to over ₹3,800 crore, but added that the BCCI had not yet informed the broadcaster about its plans to add one more team.

“While the BCCI is well within its rights to add teams, it should at least inform us. So far we only know of what has been written in press,” he said.

Sony Pictures Networks India , which had the rights to the IPL for 10 years since its inception in 2008, had paid close to ₹8,200 crore in total, or around ₹820 crore annually on an average.

While Star India managed to increase ad revenues by almost 30% to ₹2,700 crore on TV this year by holding on to ad rates of ₹12-12.5 lakh per 10 seconds, the next year will bring a new challenge in form of an ICC T20 World Cup — so the advertisers will have options. “This year was unique, but advertisers will have a choice next year with the World Cup,” said Vaishali Verma, the CEO of IPG Mediabrands’ Initiative India.

Moreover, the bigger worry for Star India, market experts say, would be the scheduling of the league next year.

“2020 was an aberration and the IPL has a set window during summers. There is not enough wiggle room to expand that due to bilateral ties and ICC tournaments. That would mean more matches will be played during afternoons, which don’t attract similar viewership. It will bring down the average viewership of the entire tournament,” said a sports marketing expert, who added that the BCCI wanted to add teams now to increase its own coffers after losing over ₹200 crore in sponsorship this season.

He said while the BCCI had maintained that it had been receiving a lot of requests from prospective team owners, the timing was curious.

Industry watchers said the Adani Group, Sanjiv Goenka-owned RPSG and media veteran Ronnie Screwvala have shown interest in teams.

BCCI’s IPL Googly may Stump Star India

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