April 5th, 2012
07:34 AM GMT
(Image credit: Getty Images)
(CNN) – It’s the fifth year of one of cricket’s most colorful events - the Indian Premier League T20.
The tournament, which includes star players from across the globe playing for various Indian state franchises, has frequently been dubbed a “money-spinner,” with a wealth of sponsors, high-profile politicians and even Bollywood stars backing the competition.
But last year’s tournament took a hit in TV viewership.
The 2011 IPL reported an average television viewer rating (TVR) of 3.91 per game, down 2.9% from five years ago, according to sports broadcaster ESPN. The final also failed to draw bumper ratings as it drew a TVR of 6.96, which paled in comparison to the 12.85 of 2010.
These problems may be unique to last year when the World Cup series held in India could have caused cricket fatigue, Rohit Gupta, president of Multi-Screen Media (MSM), which owns Set Max, the channel that broadcasts the IPL, told ESPN.
However this year’s competition has already seen regular advertisers Parle, LG Electronics and Godrej back out. Santosh Desai, head of brand consultants Future Brands, says the constant reshuffling of IPL teams has confused the fans and may be a factor in causing the tournament’s popularity to dwindle.
In previous IPL editions, at least eight sponsors have participated. This year has only attracted six. Advertising rates are also 15% lower than last year, according to a media buyer who spoke to Indian business publication, Live Mint.
The IPL has also been dogged with controversy and corruption allegations. Its founder Lalit Modi was suspended from the tournament in 2010 amid charges of misappropriation of funds from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian government.
Of the 10 teams, Kochi has been thrown out for non-payment of fees, while two teams still in the running, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, are facing arbitration in cases filed by the BCCI. Both teams are being investigated for breaching their contract agreements by changing their shareholding patterns without the BCCI’s consent. The Rajasthan Royals have also allegedly violated the Foreign Exchange Maintenance Act.
“The IPL as a property is losing its sheen. The newness is wearing off,” Anita Nayyar, chief executive (South Asia) of media buying company MPG, told Live Mint.
But it is not all bad news for Indian cricket. Rupert Murdoch's Star TV network this week acquired the rights to broadcast Indian international home matches and some domestic games until 2018 for $750 million. The contract - which does not include IPL matches - includes broadcast, Internet and mobile rights and covers a total of 96 games.
Despite the doubts about his own competition, IPL chief Rajiv Shukla was upbeat ahead of the new season. “The excitement is building up nicely. We in the BCCI are not worried at all,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The 74-match tournament kicked off this week and will continue till May 27 with nine teams in play.
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