Jofra Archer of Rajasthan Royals
Jofra Archer of Rajasthan Royals takes a specatcular catch to dismiss Ishan Kishan of Mumbai Indians last year. Star Sports, the official broadcasters, will be mapping the fielding skills of players in the IPL and sending out valuable analytics. Image Credit: BCCI

Kolkata: Another round of Indian Premier League (IPL) is around the corner and this time, in less than five months. Like in the previous years of its journey, the ‘richest’ T20 franchise league looks set to prove the law of diminishing returns wrong - if the response from the sponsors and advertisers are any indication so far.

Star Sports, the official broadcasters of IPL, are upbeat about the response as they plan to raise their game with a number of technical innovations - apart from taking unmatched preparations to operate within an unprecedented bio bubble to continue their telecast for seven weeks.


Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview on zoom, Sanjog Gupta, Head of Sports, Star and Disney India was bullish about the power of IPL as a product and revealed some of the aces up their sleeves to add value to their coverage. The task of creating bio bubbles to safeguard the interest of more than 700 crew members, not to speak of 100 commentary panelists for English as well as the regional channels - is also a humongous task but they are ready with it.

Following are the excerpts from the interview:

Gulf News: If 2020 saw the IPL taking place during September-November, it’s the first time it will be held at a gap of less than five months. How confident were you about the business prospects of IPL as India Inc. were still fighting the after-effects of the first phase of pandemic?

Sanjog Gupta: We started planning soon after 2020, which gave us lot of reasons for hope. The IPL in the UAE was most watched as it saw 400.5 billion minutes of consumption and with the IPL returning to it’s original window of April-May, we had enough faith in it’s abilities. There is no comparable property with the IPL and the passion with which people watch IPL is unmatched in it’s scale and magnitude.

A lot of companies launch new products during IPL. At this point, we have roped in 18 sponsors (see box) and over 100 advertisers across multiple brand categories days ahead of the commencement of the league. There is no reason to worry as far as the business of IPL is concerned.

The followers of IPL wait for the promos every year, which seems to resonate with the Indian population. This year, the release of ‘Monk Dhoni’ on social media created quite a stir. What was the thinking behind it?

See, in last year’s IPL, the theme was about togetherness: ‘Ek Sathwali baat’ (A tale of togetherness) at a time when the country was reeling under the pandemic. The IPL is not a mere league anymore but something which binds India together. This year, we created #Indiakaapnamantra (India’s own mantra) which talks about the country’s ability to overcome insurmountable odds. M.S. Dhoni, in his avatar of the martial arts instructor, talks about how the country can turn things on their head through the allegorical tales of a Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma.

IPL-Sanjog Gupta
The return of IPL in it's original window of April-May in India ensured the broadcasters that advertising revenue will not be a problem, says Sanjog Gupta of Star Sports. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Every year, the IPL are known to witness some innovations in terms of technology during the telecast. What new can we expect this year?

The viewers who will be again watching if from home are going to get three new things year: an optical tracking technology (which measures how fast the players are running within wickets), a database and analytics on fielding standards and thirdly, an immersive experience.

The optical tracking will reflect the power of a quick runner between the wickets while the analytics will try to value a fielder’s contribution to the game. We took a lot of feedback from our content creators, players and experts and they felt that a cricketer spends much more time in fielding that in batting or bowling in a match. Hence, if he saves 10 runs and his side goes on to win the match by five runs, then such a performance should be mapped and recognised.

The third one will be an ‘immersive experience’ where we will be sending emojis of players and emotions on our social media feed and we will see what’s trending. We will translate them into cheers at the venues - giving an impression that a fan can cheer from home. This innovative plan is being called ‘‘Cheer@home 2.0.’’

Last year, the logistics of telecast from the bio-bubble in the UAE was a humongous one. Your job must be a more difficult one this time - given the dynamics of India?

The principles of producing IPL in pandemic times remains the same this year as well. The ‘cluster caravan’ format used in hosting the tournament means a team is taking a maximum of four flights to complete the entire tournament. The same standards will be applied for us as there are four bubbles in operation now in JW Marriott, Westin, Four Seasons and Taj Coramandel. Two more bubbles will be servicing the centres which will come up in Chennai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi.

A 700-plus crew & 90 commentators will be operating under Covid-related SOPs for 60-75 days, while the bubble in Mumbai monitors 400 staffers across six floors of the production facility. This entails rigorous testing protocols for all crew like pre-screening, testing before entry, during isolation and periodic testing during the stay. Stringent sanitization and social distancing protocols are also in place at production facilities.

IPL- KKR camp
The success of bio-bubbles, both for players as well as the broadcasters, will hold the key to a smooth conduct of IPL 2021. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Finally, how has the experiment with regional channels for IPL broadcast work for you so far?

The thinking was to grow the game and it’s on the right track. We went regional with Hindi and then spread it out to Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. The idea was that it should serve in the cultural context of each feed in terms of the favourite team of the region, profile of the place and often in regional costumes.

For example, the Bangla feed will focus a lot more on KKR while a Tamil feed will do so for CSK. In a match between them, if a KKR bowler is bowling the last delivery of the CSK innings, the Bangla feed will adopt a perspective that suits their franchise and vice versa.


List of channels to follow IPL 2021

Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD, Star Sports 2, Star Sports 2 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Kannada, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Bangla, Star Gold, Star Gold HD, Star Maa Movies, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Vijay Super, Jalsha, & Disney+ Hotstar VIP

Sponsors and advertisers

The 18 sponsors on board for this edition are: Dream11, Byju’s, Phone Pe, Just Dial, Upstox, Bingo, Kamla Pasand, Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), Frooti, Asian Paints, Thums Up, Vodafone-Idea, Mondelez, Amazon Prime, Groww, Cred, Garnier Men and Havells.