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Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India, tells us what to expect from Star IPL in the first year after Star India acquires broadcast rights of the 10-year-old T20 cricket property



For those who thought the mother of all sporting leagues deserves more than two months of our attention each year, Star IPL in the league’s 11th year promises six months of power-packed action. Talking about Star India’s planned strategy to create a buzz around the T20 matches for that long, Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India says, “This year, we started the IPL engagement on January 4 with a retention announcement which has never gone live earlier. What we are trying to do before IPL comes live in April, is capture how that is happening — how are teams, coaches and stars of IPL preparing for the matches. So, there will be a ‘behind the scenes’ coverage on the strategy of the teams, which teams are going to win and why, view of experts, etc. Post IPL, there will be analysis on the wins and what fans feel about it. So we are looking at action between January and June.”

Having paid through the nose for broadcasting and digital rights worth ₹16, 347.5cr for a five-year term, it appears that Star India is under immense pressure to make profits from year one. However, Gupta says, “The immense pressure on Star is to make it exciting for our fans, and that is the only thing that we are focused on right now. The only way to make money on any property is to make it really valuable for fans. So, in the first year, the target is to make it the most exciting tournament that they have ever seen. It is not about making money. Revenues will come, but the focus on revenues will happen only after the first year. We have never invested so much in creating content. We have never taken a game and put six channels behind just one tournament. We have never taken a tournament and turned it into a six-month extravaganza from two months.

We have never used virtual reality earlier. So, if you look at our investment, it’s all around making it the biggest platform possible for viewers and fans. In five years, IPL will be a very profitable property.”

Star India clearly has bigger ambitions for IPL, from 535 million viewers last year when Sony had the broadcasting rights, Star is aiming to take the league to 700 million viewers this year. For the first time in sports broadcasting in India, Star will stream Vivo IPL on Hotstar in Virtual Reality. Viewers will also be able to select camera angles and commentary language of their choice, offering further customization through the ‘Super-fan feed’. In addition, fans will be able to enjoy a social experience on Hotstar with cricket emojis to enhance the viewing and sharing experience. Also, viewers can watch the match live on Hotstar now, as opposed to a five-minute delayed feed compared to TV, which was the case earlier.

Star India will also broadcast live matches of the league in six different languages – Hindi, English, Tamil, Bengali, Telugu and Kannada - which means more opportunity for local advertisers to come on board. Gupta adds, “We are making IPL more democratic, making it available to a larger number of brands. What IPL and sports as a whole needs is more brands participating, because that will pave the way for monetization in future. So, you can be a brand only in Tamil Nadu and yet be on IPL, just like a national brand would. But a Star Vijay’s ad rates will be different from that on Star Plus, of course depending on the reach. Today, the property is limited to just 30-50 brands, our attempt is to multiply that number.”



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