The past six to nine months has been a phase where Indian cricket has seen a remarkable slump. BCCI, which is at the helm of affairs, has been criticised for not keeping an eye on the future. The general sense is that the board is not prepared to mend this sorry state of Indian cricket despite pressures from broadcasters, the media and of course, viewers at large which matter the most if the plan is to sustain the sport in the long run.
Yes, cricket is the only celebrated sport in the country and advertisers have banked on its popularity. But recently, the game has come under the scanner with India’s debacle in its current series. Sahara has decided to end its 11-year association with BCCI and the Indian cricket team. And have also put the fate of Pune Warriors in jeopardy. The question here is whether cricket, as it is today, is an overpriced sport.
Jai Lala, Principal Partner – The Exchange, Mindshare said, “Cricket has always been a very attractive sport for advertisers. Therefore, it has been priced highly. When the performance of the Indian cricket team goes down, the viewership goes down and hence advertisers find it expensive. Advertisers want guaranteed viewership. So as a broadcaster if you’re able to provide that, advertisers will be more open to pay expensive ad rates on cricket.”
So it’s about the TRPs. R Sridhar, CEO, Brand-Comm offers a different dimension. “I think there is too much of cricket and too many properties are being created. What needs to be done is to bring focus back on the game and once India starts to win matches, which it shall as for the next 20 months it is playing at the home turf, it’ll be business as usual. Cricket will always have takers. But, with the current development there is likely to be some kind of negotiation.”
On whether BCCI is losing the plot, Mr Lala said, “BCCI has to be more professional. They are riding on a monopoly as far as Cricket in India is concerned. I think the time has come for them to corporatize their proceedings. There is a need to ensure that the future of Cricket in India is safe. The systems, procedures etc. needs to be relooked at.
IPL as is known is the game that corporate czars play, and are in no mood to go soft on their plans around the property.
However, a senior media planner on condition of anonymity said that there is a swing in the opinion because of India’s performance where the same people were betting high on the game. She said, “Cricket was not an expensive sport when India was winning, people who advertised during the Word Cup paid off their skins and didn’t complain. Now that India is losing, there’s been a negative sentiment among all stake-holders.”
On the recent development of Sahara pulling out of the Indian team sponsorship, the senior source said: “This is nothing but politics. Unfortunately, BCCI is interested in only making money rather than focusing on the future of this sport.”
Another media planner is of the opinion that there may be a bit of caution in the air. But he says, “There is no property better than cricket when it comes to capturing a large chunk of audience. So one pays premium for the kind of viewership which in any other property is difficult to get.”
He added that the association of Sahara and Indian cricket team was that of passion. Though it was not a brand-building exercise for Sahara, in the bargain the brand gained too. He says Rs 120 cr is what it takes to spend on cricket in India in a year. And if one thinks of that number, then the choice of corporates wanting to associate would be a handful. “Telecom players would have been a good bet but with the fiasco that they are facing, that seems to be an unlikely choice. However, there might be some price cutting on this front but getting a sponsor would not be difficult.”
For now, it seems everything rests on BCCI as far as the margins for broadcasters are concerned. Nimbus has found itself in a fix, with BCCI terminating the contract on non-payment of dues. An insider reveals that the heavy price levied on the part of BCCI, plus the slowdown, impacted ROI for the broadcast major.
Even in the case of IPL, MSM has already paid a heavy price, and are looking to monetise the same via hiking ad rates (by 10 per cent this year, as stated by President of MSM, Mr Rohit Gupta). Any plans to relook the 10-second on air-spots will drastically bring down revenues for the broadcaster.
Plus, the back-to-back cricketing schedule lined up by BCCI, as many opinion makers within the sporting arena agree, is the single reason why Indian cricket is experiencing a downfall never seen before, which could mean India losing many more matches, loss in viewership, loss in advertisers/sponsors. In a nutshell, cricket as a sport in India will lose its sheen.