Kolkata: The BCCI secretary’s claims that the International Cricket Council (ICC) will open a two and-a-half month window for the IPL from the next cycle has found a resonance with the franchises - with the Punjab Kings co-owner Ness Wadia being one of the most vocal about it.
Now that the dust is settling down over the IPL media rights auction, which raked in a cumulative bid of $ 6.2 billion (approx) for it’s four packages, Wadia said that the strength of IPL as a product has showed that it deserved a longer season. ‘‘The IPL certainly deserves a longer season to start with and should eventually look at two seasons. With the international calendar and factors like the monsoon, it may be difficult to stretch a single season and that’s where the idea of splitting it may work,’’ said Wadia, one of the leading industrial barons of India who had been a part of the league’s journey since its inception.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive chat over phone, Wadia said that the exponential rise in the value of IPL - which will now make the valuation of each game in the region of $ 13.7 million (second highest after NFL and more than English Premier League) didn’t really catch him by surprise. ‘‘If you look at the growth of IPL as a brand over these 15 years, it had been unbelievable barring a little dip around the third and fourth seasons. One has to thank the BCCI for coming up with such an innovative and entreprenurial effort - the hallmark of which was breaking it down to four packages and assigning a base price for each of them,’’ he said.
Let’s face it, it’s now the biggest cricket league and a truly global product which is vying with the likes of NFL, EPL or NBA. The EPL runs for nine months while the others run for more than six months - hence the increase in number of matches for us is a must
Disney Star retained the TV rights in the Indian sub-continent for US$ 3 billion approx, while the Reliance Group-owned Viacom 18 secured the digital rights in the same region and media rights (both TV and digital) across three global regions - Australia & New Zealand, the UK and South Africa for another US$ 3 billion approx). Media rights for two other global regions - the Middle East (US$ 26.27 million approx) and the USA (US$ 33.06 million approx.) went to Times Internet, a new player in the IPL.
Simply put, the deal is going to fetch the IPL three times more than the $ 2.4 billion composite deal for TV and digital rights which the BCCI signed with Star for the 2017-22 cycle.
There are no prizes for guessing that one of the key factors behind the rise in brand value of the IPL is the promise of more games per season from the existing 74 - which was played in the 2022 season between 10 teams. The break-up of 410 matches, which will be on offer over five years is 74 for the first two seasons, 84 for the third and fourth year and 94 for the fifth year of the cycle.
Can this lead to some kind of a fatigue factor, given the fact that the TRP showed signs of slipping a bit in the last quarters of the 2022 edition? Refuting such a logic, Wadia said: ‘‘Let’s face it, it’s now the biggest cricket league and a truly global product which is vying with the likes of NFL, EPL or NBA. The EPL runs for nine months while the others run for nearly six months - hence the increase in number of matches for us is a must. This will also open up opportunities of each franchise to strategise for better brand-building which is not possible in a seven-week window.’’
A ticklish question in the aftermath of the auction had been if the successful bidders will be able to generate a surplus over and above the huge bids they went in for. Wadia said: ‘‘These kind of questions were raised before also but I have no doubt they will recover costs. At the end of the day, IPL had been always a business and it has proved the naysayers wrong. Why do you think Star stayed back to win it - it must have made business sense for them.’’
Will the growth of IPL eventually threaten other franchise leagues and cast a shadow over international cricket? ‘‘I feel that ICC has realised that franchise leagues have to co-exist along with international cricket as it’s re-invigorating the sport. Just see how many leagues have proliferated since 2008, including The Hundred in England.
‘‘It has also had a positive effect on the way the longer version of the game is now played. The other day, Trent Bridge was choc-a-bloc when Jonny Bairstow was leading that incredible run chase against England,’’ he added.