Only time will tell whether Season 6 of Indian Premium League (IPL) plays to packed stadiums, but early indications suggest this year's edition of the cricket tournament may not live up to its promise as a prime-time television spectacle.
Official broadcaster Multi-Screen Media (MSM), which runs TV channel SET Max, is offering 10-second ad spots in the run-up to the tournament, beginning April 3, for Rs. 4-4.5 lakh - down by as much as 20% compared to last year's figure, media buyers told HT.
The broadcaster, however, dismissed talk about IPL's eroding popularity among TV advertisers.
"We are looking to block over 50% of ad inventory by the end of this month," said Rohit Gupta, president (network sales) at MSM.
"Reducing rates will not affect our revenue as the outlays will increase."
This season's IPL will sport a new title sponsor after cola major PepsiCo sealed a Rs. 400-crore, five-year deal.
Last year, during the final stages, the channel was charging Rs. 10 lakh for 10-second slots, but media buyers said the broadcaster had failed to monetise nearly a third of the ad inventory.
This year's tournament takes place amid a crippling industrial deceleration as the Indian economy appears to be on track to clock the worst growth in 10 years. But in spite of the plunging ad rates, cricket remains the hottest property among advertisers.
The ongoing Hockey India League (HIL), modelled on lines of the IPL, is commanding ad rates of Rs. 30,000 per 10 seconds - less than a tenth of what the cricket league commands.
According to media buyers, ESPN, the hockey league's official broadcaster, has failed to sell at least half of its inventory.
"If one negotiates harder, the slots are available between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 25,000, too," said a media buyer requesting anonymity.