NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The seventh IPL season is finally underway and even though it lacks the excitement of previous years, broadcasters and publishers are confident of gaining increased TV and online audiences with advertisers following.
"The uncertainty, late scheduling and the general elections have taken the buzz out this time," Hemant Dua, head of GMR Sports, which owns the Delhi Daredevils franchise, told the Economic Times.
He expected, however, that things would begin to pick up after the elections and when the tournament returned to India; the Daredevils' outdoor campaign had been delayed accordingly.
Meanwhile Times Internet and Star India, which share the internet and mobile broadcast rights, are hoping to pull in a significant online audience for the competition.
Satyan Gajwani, Times Internet CEO, told Livemint that over the past three years the IPL on Indiatimes had been the largest digital sports streaming event in the world.
"Last year, we reached 55m users and we expect that to grow this year," he said, with the launch of GoCricket.com. The fact that online viewers had not had to pay for access had helped drive these figures.
In addition, in Star India's first year of involvement it is breaking with its usual practice of charging a subscription fee for live content on StarSports.com and will show the IPL near-live with a five minute delay, a move which is expected to bring in 50m viewers to that site alone.
The numbers are likely to prove attractive to advertisers, with major brands like Hindustan Unilever and Amazon reported to have signed online sponsorship deals worth Rs.3-5 crore each.
Star India is also focusing on mobile content ahead of internet. "[I]n a country like India, which has a growing base of mobile users, it only makes sense to ensure that our product and design are fine-tuned to deliver a good viewer experience on that medium," explained Star India COO Sanjay Gupta.
While online viewership appears set to rise, Multi Screen Media, which owns the television broadcast rights to the tournament, expected this would supplement TV viewing rather than supplant it.
"At the end of the day, you really can't watch an entire match on a handset," said Rohit Gupta, president (network sales) at Multi Screen Media.
Data sourced from Economic Times, Livemint; additional content by Warc staff