Indian Premier League could pay off for SET

Leagues second season could earn $83 mil in TV ads

NEW DELHI--The second season of cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL), which kicked off Saturday in Cape Town, South Africa with American-style cheerleaders, is expected to net $83 million in advertising revenue for broadcaster Sony Entertainment Television (SET).

IPL features a popular new short-form of the historically longwinded sport, played by eight franchised teams, some owned by top Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and actresses Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty.

The IPL teams include top cricketing talent from India and around the world who were auctioned to the team owners in January 2008 netting $724 million--almost double the $400 million minimum base price--for the league's organizers, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

SET is expected to garner an estimated $83 million in ad revenues this season, up from a reported $73 million last year, after its parent, Multi Screen Media (MSM), renegotiated rights with BCCI to bag nine-year telecast rights up to 2017 for a record $1.63 billion.

MSM's cricket-film hybrid channel, SET MAX, will telecast the event again with a fair share of glamour--complete with American-style cheerleaders and Bollywood stars in the stands.
Industry estimates reckon that SET MAX already has sold over 80% of its advertising time, with some spots sold at prices reported to be 35% higher than last year.

When the IPL was launched, its 10-year TV rights were bought by MSM and Singapore-based World Sports Group (WSG) for about $1.03 billion--the highest amount ever paid for cricket on TV--outbidding rivals such as ESPN-STAR Sports. This year, BCCI and MSM went to court for a revised settlement.

IPL's ratings are expected, once again to boost ratings. Last year, IPL's opening weekend catapulted SET MAX to the number one spot with a 29.3% market share, way higher than the top nine general entertainment channels put together at 25.5%, data from ratings agency TAM showed.

IPL also is seen as a potential recession-buster for the travel and hospitality industries given that about 40,000 hotel rooms already are booked in South Africa's eight host cities, according to BCCI, which said it estimates 6,000 Indian cricket fans expected to travel to South Africa over the next five weeks.

The second season was moved to cricketing neighbor South Africa, where many Indians live, in part to avoid the potential for chaos around India's ongoing, contested general elections.  The final will be played in May 24 final in Johannesburg.

Indian multiplexes--already battling a strike following a failure in talks over revenue sharing terms with Indian film producers--were hoping to negotiate rights to broadcast the IPL on their screens. But unlike last year, IPL’s theatrical screening rights could not be concluded, reportedly due to BCCI's demand for a minimum guarantee considered unviable by multiplex owners.

Restaurants and pubs with TVs could still see a recent drop in sales countered by business surrounding diners and drinkers who stay to watch the IPL bonanza. The American burger restaurant chain Thank God Its Friday's, for instance, has partnered with sportswear maker Adidas to offer discounts and vouchers during the IPL.