SLICE AND DICE
The Wall Street Journal has a great story on how Cricket, one of the world's biggest sports, and almost a religion in India, is being dramatically morphed and gussied up for big-time media commercialization in that country with over a billion fans:
The Indian Premier League, which began its first season three weeks ago, is a massive departure for cricket. In the traditional format, team members dressed in white play eight hours a day for five days, with breaks for lunch and tea.
In the new format, games last about three hours total. During breaks, spectators sing and dance along to Bollywood songs. One team flew in the Washington Redskins cheerleaders for three weeks to train its squad of dancers and perform at matches.
The league consists of eight teams based in different cities around India, and they will compete in 59 games total over six weeks. It is the first ever city-based cricket league in India and the first to allow foreign players. Foreign players make up about 35% of the league, but each team can play no more than four per match. (A team can have 11 players on the field at a time.)"
The money commitment to date is also big, as the article goes on to explain:
"Backing the teams are some of India's best-known names from business and entertainment. Mukesh Ambani, head of part of the Reliance corporate empire and one of the world's richest men, and liquor baron Vijay Mallya each paid about $112 million for a franchise. India's biggest Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan, spent $75 million along with two partners for a team in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta.
The total paid for all eight teams was more than $700 million. Sony Entertainment and Singapore-based sports agency World Sport Group paid $918 million for the 10-year broadcasting rights.
Games are also being shown globally. Willow TV, a California-based company that provides live video of cricketing events on its Web site, owns the rights to distribute the games in North and South America across television, radio and the Internet."
It's too early to tell how successful this venture will be, but there are signs that the new cricket format is attracting new viewers, especially women.
It also remains to be seen how successful the new format and league team end up being with the broader population of Indians around the world. In recent years, this Indian diaspora has also been a great growth market for traditional Bollywood movie fare in the form of DVDs, Pay-per-view, and theater exhibition. Perhaps Cricket 2.0 will be as well-received around the world over time.