It is no secret that the Indian Premier League (IPL) has not only revolutionized global cricket, but also inspired the advent of pro Indian leagues across sports like Football and Kabaddi. The IPL model has now also spread geographically, with T20 Leagues flourishing in cricket playing countries across the world, especially ones with strong South Asian populations.


A Very Lucrative Playground

To give you a sense of the IPL’s commercial scale, the inaugural day of the 2024 season last week attracted 111 million + viewers on streaming platform JioCinema (owned by Viacom18), representing a staggering 51% surge in digital viewership over the previous season’s opener.

The IPL is currently in the second year of its record media rights deal (worth US$6.2 Billion) with Disney Star and Viacom18, extending until 2027. In January, globally renowned TATA Group extended its title sponsorship of the league, agreeing to a massive US$60 Million annual fee until 2028(up from US$40 Million).

(AST Graphic: Overall sports industry spends in India)

These numbers go hand-in-hand with India’s rising importance to global brands and investors across sectors. Cricket has single-handedly led the growth for Indian sports, contributing to 87% of the overall sports industry spend in 2023.

Cricket is the second most-watched sport in the world, and the IPL attracts a significant share of this viewership. This massive viewership translates into a vast consumer base for businesses, making the IPL an elite platform for mass awareness and customer acquisition in India.

“”India’s emergence as a global economic force is mirrored in the exponential growth of the IPL and its sports media rights value. As the IPL continues to captivate audiences worldwide, it serves as a testament to India’s unwavering influence in shaping the future of sports entertainment and solidifying its status as a powerhouse in the global sports economy.”

– Aditya Datta, Ex-CMO, Gujarat Titans & Founder – Impetus Sports

While the ICC World Cup was a major part of the cricket calendar in 2023, the launch of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) saw incremental spends that spurred growth. In emerging sports too, we saw the arrival of new properties on Indian soil, with the Moto GP Bharat held for the first time.


The Underlying Factors for Investment

The IPL has attracted investors from around the globe, with over US$3.2 billion in investment from Western firms, including Silver Lake Partners, CVC, KKR & Co., TPG Capital & more. So what underlying factors make it such an attractive investment opportunity in India?

(AST Graphic: Contribution to overall sports industry)

The IPL’s innovative model, which combines the thrill of the short three hour games of T20 cricket with the glamour of Bollywood, has been a game-changer. The league’s format, with its city-based franchises, high-profile auctions, and global player participation, has added a new dimension to cricket, making it appealing to a wider audience.

Meanwhile, team valuations, rights fees etc. continue to endlessly grow, mirroring India’s growing middle-class galvanized by rapid and affordable internet penetration.


Women’s Cricket: Bigger than you think

The Women’s Premier League (WPL) recently concluded its second-ever edition and is competing for the title of the second most commercially lucrative league in India after the IPL itself.

(Images: Women’s Premier League – WPL)

The Indian Super League (ISL) & the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) have been around for a decade, but WPL Fans are already packing stadiums and sponsors are lining up; indicating a shift in the Indian audience’s perception and interest in women’s sports.

With the number of matches expected to rise from 22 to 36 next year and the introduction of a sixth team, there is a significant increase anticipated in revenue generation in the coming years.


The Growth of IPL Team Valuations

The increasing popularity of the IPL has led to a surge in the valuation of IPL teams. From modest beginnings, some IPL teams are now billion dollar entities. The team valuations are a testament to the league’s success and its potential as an investment opportunity. For instance, the Mumbai Indians, owned by Reliance Industries, was valued at US$1.3 Billion in 2023.

Teams have also strategically invested in teams across other T20 leagues worldwide. This expansion has not only diversified their portfolios but also extended their global footprint, thereby enhancing their brand value and revenue streams. The owners of Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals have both acquired teams in new T20 tournaments in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and the new league in the United States. Another example is the Rajasthan Royals, which were among the first IPL teams to invest in overseas T20 leagues when they bought the Barbados franchise of the Caribbean Premier League.

Similarly, all six franchises in the SAT20 League in South Africa and three teams in the International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates also have IPL owners.

(AST Graphic: IPL Team Ownership across T20 Cricket Leagues globally)

These investments have allowed IPL teams to tap into new markets, gain access to local talent, and increase their fan base. Moreover, they have also created additional revenue streams through broadcasting rights, sponsorships, and merchandise sales in these leagues.


The Snowball Effect on Sports and SportsTech

The league has paved the way for the emergence of various sports, fitness and wellness startups, offering innovative solutions to enhance fan engagement, improve player performance, and streamline sports management.

Most recently, Ultrahuman, a Bengaluru-based health technology startup that sells wearable devices and services to track metabolic health, successfully raised $35 million, bringing their total raised to US$ 65 Million.

(Picture: Cricketer Shreyas Iyer partners with Ultrahuman, metabolic fitness platform)

The IPL’s massive digital-first fan base offers numerous opportunities for fan monetisation and has already been the main driver behind the growth of fantasy sports becoming a multi-billion dollar industry in india. The lack of a legal betting industry and the opportunity to win financial rewards have attracted a large number of players to fantasy sports platforms.

“Technology will allow rights holders to truly engage and personalize interactions with every fan on a 1:1 level across every touchpoint: Ticketing, Merchandise, Website, App, Social, and many more… Leading to higher LTV & retention. 

This will have knock-on effects on how broadcasters & sponsors interact with the rights holders. It all starts with understanding and knowing the fans. Who are these 500 million people? This will lead to new economic models for global sports.”

– Siddarth Raheja, Lead – B2B & Customer Success at Proem Sports

There is also the rise of cricket-based gaming such as Invrs Cricket, a highly immersive VR cricket game that allows players to step into world-class stadiums with thousands cheering for them. This showcases another important aspect of India’s story – the ability to develop and create the future of consumption. 

“Every year the IPL is getting bigger and more money is generated and spent during the season. This is reflective in the amount of technological implementations you can see while the IPL is on. Whether it’s in broadcast, fan engagement, analytics, advertising, fantasy sports or gaming, we can see tech innovations across the board.

Moving forward we can expect to see growth of technology in implementation of AI in these areas, as well as continuous engagement (especially for the off season). We at Invrse are trying to build for some of these areas as well.”

– Kabir Punde, Founder of INVRS


Conclusion: A Plethora of Opportunities

The IPL juggernaut can also be directly credited for two historic inroads into unlikely territory; the USA. Firstly, the establishment of Major League Cricket (MLC), and secondly, the upcoming T20 Cricket World Cup 2024 being hosted by the USA & the West Indies.

What’s more, Cricket is also going to be make it’s first-ever appearance at LA2028

India is a global leader in Cricket, but this success is enabling a rapidly expanding sports culture. The country’s dedication to sports infrastructure is demonstrated by its allocation of US$ 1 Billion for sports development under the National Infrastructure Pipeline.

The Sports Authority of India has established 23 National Centers of Excellence and 67 Training Centers, paving the way for nationwide sports promotion. As the sports sector in India thrives, the possibility of hosting the 2036 Summer Olympics becomes increasingly likely.

Seize this thrilling opportunity and delve into limitless possibilities for sports investment in India’s dynamic landscape. Asia Sports Tech invites you to explore these opportunities and be a part of India’s exciting sports growth story.

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