On 5 June 2018, eight days after the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) concluded, Uday Shankar, the chairman and CEO of Star India, addressed several thousand of the company’s employees. The town hall was held at 10:45 AM on a Tuesday. Employees logged into their screens from more than 10 locations, including the UK, the US and Dubai. They had concerns. The last two months hadn’t been the easiest on Shankar and his team.
Media, advertisers, rivals and Star’s own employees have been watching the company’s every move. Early last year, Star India edged out Sony to win the media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the five year period 2018-2022. What everyone has been wondering since is whether Star can recover the Rs 16,347 crore ($2.4 billion) it bid on the IPL. How?
This question has been a daisy oracle for more than nine months now.
“We have performed exceptionally well,” said Shankar, during the townhall, dressed in his usual white shirt. As he congratulated his staff on the IPL, he said, “We have set new records. We successfully executed IPL and crossed all expectations. Star has raised the bar.” When a company with more than 60 channels in eight languages (reaching 700 million viewers every month) says that it has set new records with a property that is in its 11th year, there may very well be something to show for. The distribution, marketing and reception of IPL 11 has surprised many, if not all. For the first time, IPL matches were aired in regional languages, and in not one but four—Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Kannada. In another first, Star aired IPL across 10 television feeds, compared with five last year. It set a new record of 10 million concurrent viewers watching the final match between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad on the online video-streaming platform Hotstar.
“Viewership growth has been phenomenal. Consumption on Hotstar has been three times, compared to what it was last season,” said Sanjay Gupta, managing director at Star India Private Limited. “What was already big has gotten bigger,” Gupta added.
More numbers follow.
Adding the ad money
A market estimate of what Star earned in advertising money from IPL 11 has been doing the rounds in the media—a sum of Rs 2,000 crore ($296.5 million), across television and Hotstar. Before IPL, about the same amount (Rs 2,000 crore) was quoted by multiple Star spokespersons as their revenue target in the media. But Star doesn’t talk actual revenue numbers, being a private company.
In his town hall, Shankar said that the company earned somewhere between Rs 1,700 – 1,800 crore ($252-266.8 million) in ad revenue from IPL.