They say that cricket in India is a religion and if so, then the month long Indian Premier League (IPL), now in its third season, is its major festival. Millions are glued to IPL news from the time the “auction” and the bidding and buying of teams and players begins. The IPL extravaganza has been marketed as an entertainment package for all, combining glamour, sport, local loyalties and millions of dollars. However, more than being just a business, IPL has been successful in becoming a benchmark for entertaining sports and a celebration of India’s vast fan following for cricket.
The first season of IPL in 2008 was one of the most watched events in the country, both by TV viewers and spectators on ground. The second season, despite being held outside India, did not diminish in viewership or entertainment value or even the enthusiasm of Indian and foreign followers. In its third season, IPL excitement is once again building. Money has been pumped in by the league and franchisees, local businesses and restaurants are gearing up to screen matches for their clients, paraphernalia are being sold and broadcasters are finalizing their agreements with IPL to bring audiences more entertainment than any sport has seen in the country.
However, news of a recent standoff between broadcasters on one side and IPL and Sony Entertainment Television (SETMAX) on the other is threatening to put a dampener on the matches. The dispute relates to broadcast rights granted to agencies providing news, including TV news channels, online news and entertainment portals, print media and even entertainment media. When IPL began in 2008, exclusive broadcast rights were sold to Sony/SETMAX for an eye-popping sum for 10 years. However, news and entertainment agencies were also granted rights to telecast news relating to IPL. They were provided video footage which they could telecast and were allowed to develop entertainment and analysis programmes on the matches. Journalists were permitted to report matches and publish relating analysis in print media. Even fashion and entertainment publishers were granted rights to use video footage and photographs from IPL.
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Bhavna Gandhi is a senior associate at Lall Lahiri & Salhotra.
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