Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency
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Fans who have become accustomed to Twenty20 matches lasting just three hours are in for a surprise during the second season of the IPL - they will now last three-and-a-quarter hours. Part of the appeal of the shortest form of the game is the non-stop action but IPL games will now take longer and there will be no action at all during the added time.
The IPL are planning to market the added time as an 'innovation' by calling it a tactical 'time out' but the fact that each innings will now come to a halt for seven-and-a-half minutes after exactly 10 overs makes it neither tactical nor, indeed, practical.
"It is a move that is driven completely and totally by commercial objectives," a senior production official told Cricinfo. "It is designed purely to make even more money by selling airtime. Nobody could argue that this adds any cricketing value to the tournament or that it can be in the viewers' interest, either in the stadium or watching at home," the official said.
The seven-and-a-half minute break will see the stadium crowd entertained by a live band while television audiences will watch three, separate two-and-a-half minute segments, two of which will be sold commercially. The third will show the teams taking drinks and discussing 'tactics' to add some validity to the argument for the 'time out.'
While one section will be compulsory, mainstream advertising, the other will be set aside for 'special projects'. Queen Rania of Jordan, well known for her agenda of social reform and progression, will lead the way with a series of short films aimed at African children expounding the importance of education.
The IPL can justifiably claim that the project is well intentioned and for a good cause. And at approximately $1million per episode, it's also very lucrative. There are 118 two-and-half minute slots for sale.
Production teams have also been told that they need to fit 2000 seconds (around 33 minutes) of advertising into every match, a task described by a different member of the production team as "virtually impossible."
"It means taking about 40 seconds of advertising between every over and close to a minute at the fall of every wicket. It's OK in theory but it hardly ever works like that. If a team only loses two or three wickets, or the match finishes in 15 overs, we are in trouble," the same production official said.
In March, the IPL signed a fresh US $1.8 billion broadcast-rights deal for 10 years with Multi Screen Media (MSM), which operates under the Sony umbrella, and World Sports Group (WSG). The matches are being telecast by Supersport, the South African broadcaster which holds the tournament rights in that country.