Mumbai: It’s official. The fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) wasn’t as big a hit as its previous editions.
Analysts who had based statements to the effect on empty stadia during the matches—despite claims from the match commentators to the contrary—need only look as far as television rating numbers for corroboration.
According to data for the top six metros from TAM Sports, a division of TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, the final between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore registered an average television rating of 6.96, the lowest in four years. This number reflects the percentage of viewers watching a programme at a specific time. The tournament, which stretched across 74 matches and over seven weeks, registered an average rating of 3.91, also the lowest ever.
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Last year, the final of the popular Twenty20 tournament had a viewership of 12.9, and the tournament as a whole, an average of 5.51.
Experts said viewer fatigue may have been responsible for the slump in viewership. The IPL followed on the heels of the cricket World Cup, which was won by India. That final, telecast on Star Sports, Star Cricket and Doordarshan, had a television rating of 23.2 and was watched by 135 million viewers across the country in cable and satellite, terrestrial and DTH homes. The peak rating during the World Cup final was 35.9.
IPL-4 failed to meet expectations, said Shubha George, chief operating officer, MEC, GroupM Media India Pvt. Ltd.
“We predicted (internally) that IPL would deliver a rating of 5 in the 15 (years)-plus SEC-ABC target group,” George said. “But it delivered far less—3.7 in the same target groups—before the play-offs.” SEC refers to socioeconomic classification and A, B, and C are the top three groups in this.
The greater number of matches, changes in the teams, and the addition of two new teams may have also contributed to the fall in viewership, say experts. The last tournament had 60 matches, was played over five weeks and had eight teams.
“The IPL is too long a format to sustain interest. Reach has gone up but time spent has gone down significantly. This could be due to the longer format or inclusion of new players in various teams,” George said.
Viewership may also have fallen because some of the matches were inconsequential, involving teams that were already out of the tournament but had to finish their quota of matches anyway.
Media buyers expect to see some correction in ad rates charged by broadcaster Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd, which broadcast the matches on its channel Set Max.
“I am not sure about the large advertisers, but many who are on the periphery will rethink their plans on IPL,” said Sejal Shah, vice-president, India Media Exchange, the joint media buying arm for Starcom Mediavest Group and Zenith Optimedia. “They could move it to other properties.”
Shah expects a lull in cricket ad spending till September. According to a spokesperson for the channel, a 10-second spot during IPL-4 was pegged at approximately Rs 5.25-5.30 lakh.
Multi Screen Media pre-sold most of its inventory and made as much as Rs 1,000 crore in ad revenue this season, said Rohit Gupta, the company’s president. He defended the length of the tournament, saying that the English Premier League lasts eight months and still retains viewer interest.
“The reach figures are high, which means there’s enough interest around the series and that people are still checking out the IPL. If the reach (figures) would have gone down, it would have been a matter of concern,” he said, attributing the lower ratings to factors such as the changes in team composition. “We expect things to settle down by next year.”
The Board of Control for Cricket in India and the channel will discuss the issue, he said.
There will be no compensation for advertisers because of the lower-than-expected ratings. “The IPL has delivered very well over the years,” he said. “A lot of advertisers are long-term advertisers and they understand that.”
The audience reached by the tournament, defined as people who had tuned into any of the matches for at least a minute, reached 58.8 million. Season I had 41.9 million viewers, season II, when the tournament was held in South Africa, had 47.1 million viewers, and season III had 55.4 million viewers.
In season I, the final had a rating of 11.7. This fell to 10.7 and then rose to 12.9 in the second and third seasons, respectively. The average television rating for the tournament was 4.66 in season II and 5.51 in season III.
The cities included in the survey were Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad. TAM will release the all-India viewership figures later this week.
Graphic by Yogesh Kumar/Mint