New low: Title rights sold at base price

On a bitter Thursday, the popularity dip reflected in hard numbers and cash as its title sponsorship for the upcoming season was sold at just the base price of Rs 2 crore per fixture. The amount is Rs 1.33 crore, or 40 per cent, less than what Airtel had paid till recently. Star Private and ESPN Software, who hold the telecast rights, were declared the winners.

More embarrassingly, the BCCI didn’t even have an option as there was just one bidder in the end. Micromax, the other company that had bought the bid document, didn’t even follow through on it.

Secretary Sanjay Patel, however, blamed the economic downturn for the lack of interest. “There was only one bid and we are pleased to close the deal at Rs 26 crore. We have accepted the minimum bidding price and we are happy that they (the sponsors) have included the Australia series which is just days away,” said Patel, after the 26-member marketing committee met at the BCCI headquarters.

The deal covers 13 international games against Australia and West Indies. The earlier three-year deal with Airtel ran from September 1, 2010 to March 31, 2013, and brought in a cool Rs 3.33 crore for each international fixture.

“Under the market situation, we are very happy that the deal has gone through. These deals are always market-driven ,” Patel added.

Lalit Modi – the man who was responsible for the phenomenal rise in BCCI’s income — blamed the top bosses for the dip in fortunes. “The value will keep diminishing – the mandarins in Chennai need to know – ratings, sentiments are all headed south and will continue to head south,” Modi told TOI in an email communication.

The former IPL commissioner, who has been banned for life by the BCCI, blamed the recent controversies for diminishing returns.

“Only BCCI is to blame for this fiasco and I directly blame Sundar Raman and Srinivasan. They actually have zero understanding of how to market or administer the sport. (It has got) nothing to do with financial crisis. Sponsors, owners, fans are all deserting the sport. Even the price they got from Star seems to be a desperate attempt to salvage the deal. I am sure when I see the agreement – BCCI has probably salvaged a short term deal by probably giving them another subsidy somewhere else,” said Modi.

Modi said that this wasn’t only where the BCCI was facing a setback. Asked if he had set the benchmark too high when he headed the marketing committee, he said, “I set the right benchmarks. Whilst I was there we always had a queue of bidders. We did everything that was required to garner higher ratings. As long as we were able to achieve that – sponsors were happy. Indian cricket since 2010 has started to lose ratings. That directly has impacted rates. And that’s due to decrease in viewership. Spin doctors in BCCI have tried to sell stories that all is better. For example, ratings on IPL are down 56% year on year since 2010 – it’s a huge impact. And it will manifest itself in years to come.”

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