The Great Indian Cricket Tamasha

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SummaryThey say it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose; what matters is how you play the game. But if you were to look at the frenzy generated by the players’ bid last week, it seems there are no losers in the Indian Premier League.

They say it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose; what matters is how you play the game. But if you were to look at the frenzy generated by the players’ bid last week, it seems there are no losers in the Indian Premier League. The biggest gainer, say media analysts and brand managers alike, is of course, the game. In fact, cricket ain’t a game no longer. It’s become one huge entertainment, a mega event, a mind-boggling show, a juggernaut that’ll roll right over opponents in a deadly crushing attack.

“This is marketing at its best,” says Ravi Kiran, chief executive officer for South Asia of Starcom MediaVest. “A great product, in a great package, at a fantastic price. And in my opinion the fourth biggest milestone in the history of Indian television.”

The first milestone, according to Kiran, was the era of Ramayana and Mahabharata, when the streets across India wore a desolate look because people scurried home, entrenched themselves before their television sets, hands folded in reverence and neighbours in tow, absorbing every twist and turn as the epics unfolded before there eyes. The second, he says, was the time when Indians got the first taste of salacious scandal and never-before drama on satellite television as ZEE unleashed Tara and Banegi Apni Baat on its audiences and made the likes of Navneet Nishan a household name. Kaun Banega Crorepati was the next big leap in the sense that it taught an entire generation of people how to get rich overnight. “IPL will bring back the magic of television,” adds Kiran.

He has a point. While general entertainment channels with their fare of soaps, serials and reality shows etc are still the No. 1 genre among Indian households, the ratings of individual soaps have been on a decline for some time now.

A recent study by Starcom India shows that the top TVR (television rating) for a soap has dropped from the mid-20s a few years back to sub-10 in recent times. Time, in short, for a change. An alternative.

And what better alternative than cricket, which has rarely let brands and their agencies down. Among other things, the Twenty20 format proved a point last year when India’s matches in 2007 managed to record 40% more viewership than India’s ODIs in 2006. So what if the national and regional boundaries are set to vanish under the IPL format? “It will be pure

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