The Women’s Indian Premier League (WIPL) has become the second-largest franchise cricket league, only second to the IPL. It has left other leagues, such as Pakistan Super League, Australia’s Big Bash League, and the Caribbean Premier League behind after its inaugural bid for teams. In fact, the money paid by corporate groups for the five teams is higher than that paid during IPL 2008 auctions.
How big is the women’s IPL?
In total, corporates paid Rs 4670 crores to acquire rights to the teams for the next decade. The highest bid came from the Adani Group, which paid Rs 1289 crores to acquire Ahmedabad, followed by the Reliance Group, which paid Rs 912 crores for the Mumbai franchise. The Adani group had previously attempted to acquire men’s IPL teams but could not do so. However, it has been successful in its bid this time around.
Viacom 18, another arm of the Reliance group, paid Rs 951 crores to acquire the broadcast rights of WIPL for the next decade.
For now, the number of teams will be limited to just five. The five franchises will play 22 matches. in terms of value, women’s IPL numbers are much smaller than men’s IPL. For instance, the broadcasting rights for men’s IPL stood at upwards of Rs 48,000 crores only for the next five years, compared to WIPL’s Rs 951 crores. It should be kept in mind that the women’s IPL would have a lesser number of matches and is unlikely to have a similar viewership as men’s IPL, which would limit advertising money, ticket money, and sponsor contributions. Even in the US, WNBA’s viewership is almost non-existent compared to the NBA’s viewership.
Nevertheless, in the overall scheme of things, women’s IPL is only behind basketball’s WNBA and soccer’s Women’s Soccer League – both of which have a higher viewership in economically richer countries. Even men’s IPL is behind the male versions of these leagues. The large sums of money companies are willing to pay to acquire teams, players, and broadcasting rights indicate the growing acceptance of women’s sports in India.
Why are corporations interested in WIPL?
For Reliance, the move allows it to acquire more sports properties that it can stream on its platforms to acquire more viewers. A diverse and large content library on a single platform would make it an interesting proposition for a user. Unlike certain platforms like Netflix that focus mainly on cinema content, companies like Reliance and Disney strongly focus on sporting content to gain more market share in India.
Some analysts suggest that the IPL might even be streamed for free to attract audiences, while advertisers compensate for the loss of revenue by paying up larger amounts for slots during the matches. Few others suggest that WIPL would have more advertisers with women-oriented products since women are expected to form a significant chunk of the viewers.
Advertisers have been known to pay more for female audiences. While there isn’t much data available about the WNBA’s TV viewership, data suggests that 75% of the audience physically present at a WNBA game is female. For companies, directly participating in WIPL or sponsoring activities would help them indicate their focus on inclusivity and diversity.
Among the biggest barriers to women’s sports has been viewership. As highlighted above, WNBA’s viewership numbers are extremely small compared to NBA’s numbers. NBA’s finals attract more than 15 million viewers each year, compared to a few hundred thousand for WNBA.
Similarly, women’s cricket matches have a much smaller viewership compared to men’s matches. However, WIPL would help nurture women cricketers, bring it into the mainstream, promote the sport among audiences, and allow women players to showcase their talents and make more money. The team purse for purchasing players has been set at Rs 12 crores, with increments of Rs 1.5 crores each year.