After two back-to-back seasons of declining viewership, when it seemed that the IPL bubble was about to burst, the cricketing premier league has increased its brand valuation significantly in the latest edition. IPL, which sold its streaming rights for almost $6 billion in the most recent auctions, second only to US’ National Football League, has delivered handsomely in its 16th edition, with nail-biting competition and record viewership numbers for both Reliance and Disney-Star. 

Brand valuation experts that businessline spoke with said the latest edition of the league has rescued its brand value. Ajimon Francis, Managing Director at Brand Finance India, estimates that IPL’s brand value has swelled by almost 15-20 per cent, with the success of the latest season. 

With teams routinely delivering 200 plus scores and well balanced matches, the viewer excitement was pretty high for this season. Viacom18 and Disney Star, which had placed big bets on the league, can now breathe a sigh of relief as the season was able to deliver record viewership numbers. For Disney-Star, this was “an historic IPL on television,” as the broadcaster’s 2023 coverage smashed the all-time TV viewership record of 478 million set during the 2019 season, reaching 482 million viewers. Viacom’s streaming bet also paid off, as it set a world record for 32 million concurrent viewers for the IPL final. 

The intense competition between the two broadcasters had some role to play in the numbers. “IPL went hyper this season, we verified that, that is largely because when Jio came on strong in the beginning of IPL airing the league in 16 languages, Disney also followed suit, broadcasting the league in 15-16 different languages,” Francis added.

The competitive nature of this season has the biggest role to play in rescuing valuation for the league. 

While the circumstances that made this edition a success might appear to be fortuitous, the valuation of the league is expected to continue to grow, as the new tactical rules make the game more electrifying, with seemingly higher  stakes and a faster pace. 

According to Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director at Rediffusion, the magical 200 score is going to become the benchmark for the league. The Impact Player Rule, which was introduced in the 2023 edition, has increased the standard scores delivered by teams, consequently the risk appetite for players is going to increase as they vie for more sixes, adding to viewer excitement and engagement. 

The competitive quality of any league has been linked to viewership numbers in many instances. In 2016, the English Premier League for football had to face this moment of reckoning, as viewership numbers declined as a result of the dip in the competitive nature of the league. For broadcasters like Sky and BT Sport, this was a major cause of worry as it would mean that their big bet on the sports property would not pay off. 

In India as well, Disney Star and Reliance have made significant investments into this marquee sports property. For JioCinema, its entire future in digital streaming rests on how successfully it is able to recoup the investment. The league will have to continue to vie for viewer interest, to ensure that the gamble pays off.