95 per cent of advertising inventory has been sold on television and 18 on-air sponsors have been signed up so far, the highest for any season.
Viveat Susan Pinto reports.
The Indian Premier League kicks off today, September 19, in the United Arab Emirates.
And broadcaster Disney-Star is pulling out all the stops to ensure it remains top of mind for viewers in India, who are confined to their homes because of the surging Covid-19 cases.
This is the first time that the IPL will coincide with the festive season, implying that companies have a big platform to park their advertising money between September and November.
But the T20 tournament will also clash with other high-impact properties such as Bigg Boss and Kaun Banega Crorepati, which are scheduled for launch next month on Colors and Sony Entertainment Television, respectively.
So television viewership is likely to be divided between general entertainment channels and sports channels, forcing Disney-Star to also think digital, media industry experts say.
Gautam Thakkar, chief executive officer, Star Sports, says the current edition of the IPL will get even bigger in the absence of live sporting action. He is confident that "?with matches beginning at 7:30 pm, fewer double-headers (two matches on the same day) and stay-at-home fans anxiously waiting for their favourite cricket tournament, IPL 2020 will set a new record."
Thakkar says 95 per cent of advertising inventory has been sold on television and 18 on-air sponsors have been signed up so far, the highest for any season. These include brands across categories such as fast-moving consumer goods, automotive, edutech, fantasy sports and online shopping.
This year’s tournament, he says, will be broadcast on the Star Sports network and streamed on Disney+ Hotstar in seven languages: English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bangla, Kannada and Malayalam.
Media industry executives responsible for buying advertising time on behalf of companies say that Disney+ Hotstar will do a number of online fan engagements this year, since tune-ins on the digital platform are expected to be high, owing to the increased adoption of over-the-top services.
"Matches will be played without fans in the stadium. So, the scope for on-ground engagement is limited from an advertiser's perspective. The avenue available, therefore, is on digital, and Disney+ Hotstar will capitalise on this opportunity," says Sajal Gupta, vice-president, Digital Media Planning, Zenith.
The OTT service is expected to scale up the play-along and social chatting features that exist on its platform, increasing the scope for brands and audiences to engage meaningfully.
Brands are also expected to run promotional campaigns and online contests, with winners to be given a chance to engage digitally with their favourite cricketers, Shrenik Gandhi, co-founder of Mumbai-based digital agency White Rivers Media, says.
The use of augmented and virtual reality to improve fan engagement online cannot be ruled out, too, sector experts add.
Star is also extending its pre-match shows on television by half an hour, allowing companies to buy advertising time on them, since match inventory is expected to be limited.
At the same time, the network is also pushing annual digital subscription plans, saying that only annual subscribers can watch the IPL matches live on the app.
This includes users of its Rs 399 and Rs 1,499 subscription plans, with the OTT platform also tying up with telecom operators Jio and Airtel, bundling its annual services with the latter’s prepaid recharge plans.
Gandhi says the Rs 399 subscription service could drive up user numbers for Disney+ Hotstar during the IPL, an important strategy if it wishes to improve revenue potential beyond advertising.
Media industry experts expect Disney-Star to earn more than Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) in advertising revenue from the IPL this year.
At least Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) could come from the digital platform, analysts tracking the market say, implying that the network has its hands full.