By Baidurjo Bhose
New Delhi [India], April 6 (ANI): One of the biggest stakeholders in the Indian Premier League since its inception is the fans. And for the second year in a row, the cash-rich league will be played minus fans with an eye on the COVID-19 situation. But host broadcasters Star India is keeping no stone unturned to ensure that the fan engagement rises to the next level after what was a terrific display of smart innovation to engage fans in the 13th edition in UAE.
Speaking to ANI, days before the opening game between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Chennai, Star India Sports Head Sanjog Gupta promises much more. While keeping the cards close to his chest, Sanjog says it will not just be an out-of-the-box experience for the fans, but also it will take them much closer to the players than they have ever been.
"I can tell you that we are working very closely with our sound designers on enhancing the sound design from last year. There are going to be new chants as some of the rising players who are now not on the cusp of greatness, are already in the midst of that journey. That forms a part of what we're calling our belief in verticals.
"So, there are three pillars or three verticals that form a part of the overall product experience, the first part is unique. The second one is interactivity. And the third one is emotion. In the viewing experience, we are looking at three components. One is the visual design, which is now that you do not have crowds in the stadium, you can get much closer to players with your camera angles, you can have a lot more replays. You can have many more ultra-motion and super slo-mo replays because you're not cutting around to the crowd.
"So, I think the action on the ground will be seen much better and viewers will genuinely feel much closer to the action than they have in the past. Now that the stands are empty, you can place your cameras in novel positions from which you can get different views of the game. I think that's one part of it, which is the visual design.
"And the other part of the theme is the audio design, which I just spoke off where the other thing that we're doing is we're working very closely with Dolby to also heighten the sounds of the game. I mean, you can hear more sounds from the field of play, including some conversations, including the sound of the ball hitting the bat," he explained.
Does that mean more insight into the fun banters between players? Sanjog says it is 'a yes' and 'a no'. While he does agree that fans will get to hear conversations, players will not be made to feel intimidated.
"It will entail every now and then listening in to what MS Dhoni is telling Ravindra Jadeja at the bowling crease or what Rishabh Pant is chatting away in the ear of the batsman at the crease. So, we will obviously focus on capturing those conversations.
"We obviously don't want to get in the way of players playing the game or in any way make them feel, that they're being monitored. And for sure, we do not want any conversation to go on-air that is unparliamentary or for that matter is not in line with broadcast standards. But beyond that, I think the emphasis is on getting into the game a lot more," he pointed.
"There are few moments where we are capturing audio, and that's up to the discretion of the audio engineer and what the conversation is at that point. So, obviously, there is a listening element to it and there's a curation element."
Just when it seems it cannot get bigger as far as fan engagement is concerned, what comes next is stuff dreams are made of. For years, MS Dhoni has been considered one of the fastest runners between wickets. But Virat Kohli faithfuls believe otherwise. In fact, post the Dhoni-Kohli partnership in the 2016 WT20 game against Australia in Mohali, the Kohli school of fans had said that the current India skipper is undoubtedly the fittest cricketer around -- be it with his running between the wickets, or his quick sprint at the boundary rope.
The Star India Sports Head reveals fans can now actually decide who between Dhoni and Kohli is the quickest between wickets. And this is just one of the many metrics that the host broadcasters are looking to introduce.
"An interesting thing which I can tell you, which is more on the experience side is we are also looking at introducing new metrics for fielding so that we can objectively evaluate the fielding standards of teams and players. We are also looking at measuring certain skills that players have which are critical to the game, but have never been measured -- for example, running between the wickets.
"One of the things that we are planning to do is to try and measure as much as possible, the speed of players both striker and non-striker, while they're running singles, doubles or threes and to arrive at who is generally the quickest between the wicket because some people think Dhoni is quickest, some people believe it's Virat, some people believe its AB de Villiers. Here's an opportunity for us to take a scale of the game that's critical and measure it to figure out the answer to this question," he smiles.
Clearly, he has the pulse of the fans, but we aren't done yet. There's more in store when it comes to engaging the fans and keeping them glued to the action from April 9 to May 30.
"The interactivity part is powered by our OTT platform -- Disney+ Hotstar -- and the kind of activations that we do in conjunction with the IPL T20 (league's handle) on social media platform -- where the attempt is to engage viewers in a two-way conversation instead of just offering a one-way viewing experience. Something like an #AskStar -- which is the hashtag that we use to invite viewers to ask questions of commentators during the game with the most relevant being answered on air. That creates a loop of interaction!
"Similarly, users can use emojis to express themselves on Disney+ Hotstar. They can participate in polls and relevant conversations. Users can now comment on phases of the game or on what's happening in the game. So, there is a layer of interactivity! The final bucket of innovations that we're looking at is emotion. Emotion has to do with getting viewers into the game. As you're aware that there are no fans in the stadium, which poses a unique challenge, but also opens up an interesting opportunity because our perspective now is that every living room is effectively a stand and every couch is looking at the stadium," he signed off. (ANI)