When the Indian Premier League (IPL) hosted its first edition in 2008, it was met with cynicism. How could an event with a limited number of stars and unknown teams pull through for a month was the apprehension. Not only has it managed to hold out but, in the process, has become modern day cricket's most expensive property. Even the darkest moment, of match fixing, did nothing to dampen viewer interest in the tournament, which has the game’s biggest stars playing cricket under the lights. At the end of last year’s edition, the IPL was valued at a whopping $6.3 billion, up 19% over the previous year.
For the broadcasters, it was too big a story to miss and when Star India in 2017 cut a cheque for $2.55 billion to acquire the telecast rights for five years, there was little to doubt that the IPL was here to stay. With a good chance that viewership this year will be 500 million over 50 days, the stakes have only got more expensive. Advertising a brand for all of 10 seconds during a game will mean an outgo of at least ₹1 million and that would mean IPL 2019 is likely to garner more than ₹20 billion. It is a jamboree for the ones with deep pockets. Chinese phone manufacturer, Vivo has coughed up ₹22 billion for a five-year deal to be the lead sponsor or over 5X more than what Pepsi had paid earlier. If cricket is a religion in India, as it is often said, then IPL is where the feverish chants reach the highest pitch.