It is not merely Test cricket that is suffering from the pangs of survival. The Champions League Twenty20 tournament scheduled in September-October has lost its title sponsor. Bharti Airtel, India's largest telecom company that signed a five-year deal in 2009, has decided to pull out with three years left, reportedly due to poor response to the event.
Airtel's deal was reportedly worth $40 million but it has decided to pull out after two years, according to ESPN Star Sports (ESS), the tournament's broadcaster.
"We confirm that due to unforeseen circumstances, Airtel has exited the title sponsor slot for Champions League Twenty20 this year," Sanjay Kailash, executive vice-president for Ad Sales and New Media, ESS, said in a statement to ESPNcricinfo. ESS, which paid around $1 billion in 2008 for the 10-year tournament broadcasting rights, is in the process of finding a new title sponsor.
Although featuring the elite T20 teams from around the world, the Champions League has struggled to draw the kind of TV viewership the Indian Premier League has attracted. After the first season was forced to be cancelled in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, Indian fans were indifferent to the event when it eventually made its debut the next year.
That year, the CLT20 drew an average television ratings point (TRP) of 1.06 (one TRP represents 1% of viewers in the surveyed area in a given minute), compared to an average TRP of 4.1 for the 2009 IPL, said ESPNcricinfo. The ratings improved when the event was held in South Africa last year, but the response was still far below the IPL.