In order to counter the heat generated by the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) launched by BCCI, the rebel cricket body Indian Cricket League (ICL) is all set to take its tournament outside the country.

Not only will the Subhash Chandra-owned Twenty20 tournament go to West Asia in September, its prize money will also go up. ICL will also launch a high-voltage multi-media campaign beginning August-September other than considering roping in film stars to not only own cricket teams, but to play the Twenty20 matches.

The bottom line is that the Essel Group is gearing up to take on the Indian Premier League which has kept television viewers glued to Sony’s SET Max channel.

Says a senior ZEE executive: “The ICL is now very big on the agenda for the group. Several steps are being taken to increase the interest of both the viewers and the advertisers when the tournament starts in September-October this year. Don’t forget, we saw the big potential in the Twenty20 format much before anyone else did.”

To lend freshness to the game, the ICL executives are looking at several international cricketing venues in the Gulf. The belief is that the company may finally zero in on Dubai or Sharjah as Taj Television, the holding company of Ten Sports that shows the matches, is based in Dubai. ZEE owns a 50 per cent stake in Ten Sports.

However, in the face of competition from IPL, establishing ICL as a vibrant television property will be an uphill task for the Essel Group.

“IPL is a successful television property with consistent ratings of about 4-5, similar to any popular show on a general entertainment channel. The initial tournaments of ICL got ratings of 1-2. To attract the viewers to another Twenty20 tournament will be a tough challenge for the ICL team,” says a senior media planner. Winning against IPL will be a challenge on other counts as well.

For a start, IPL is an official tournament with the backing of the International Cricket Council (ICC) while ICL is a rebel league comprising either retired international cricketers or not so known cricket players from both within and outside the country.

Also, the ICL matches aired on ZEE Sports and later on Ten Sports as well, managed to attract viewers for 6-12 minutes on an average. The average time spent on Set Max (for IPL) has been over 40 minutes.

Himanshu Modi, business head, ICL, however, is unfazed. In an emailed response to Business Standard earlier, he said: “It is important for everyone involved or following the league to understand that in terms of product life cycle we are in the introductory stage. Like any other sporting product, the ICL will need time to build its support base_”

IPL has become a phenomenal television success, agree advertising experts. “If any one has to even match its intensity in future, they will have to put in something ‘extra’,” a senior executive in an advertising agency concludes.

International venues and celebrities may work wonders for the sub-continent expats, but for the viewers back home, much more may be required,” a senior executive in a Gurgaon-based advertising agency concludes.