Finally, India is watching some non-cricket sport on television. The 19 August women’s singles badminton final at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, saw the nation glued to the TV as India’s P.V. Sindhu took on world no. 1 Carolina Marin of Spain.
The duel, in which Sindhu went down fighting to win India’s only silver medal, generated 17.3 million impressions across five TV channels, according to television ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India.
Impressions refer to the number of individuals in thousands of a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes. It is also known as television viewership in thousands, as per BARC India.
These impressions were calculated across five channels, including the state broadcaster’s DD National as well as official broadcaster Star India Pvt. Ltd’s Star Sports 2 &3 and their high definition (HD) counterparts.
The numbers are telling. The viewership attracted by the Olympic games’ badminton final surpassed that for the finals of all non-cricket sporting events, including Pro-Kabbadi League (PKL), European Football League (UEFA) and Wimbledon men’s singles.
The PKL season 4 final generated 14.3 million impressions the UEFA 1.5 million, Copa America 1.2 million, Premiere Futsal 0.17 million and men’s Wimbledon 0.072 million impressions.
To be sure, the number of channels that aired these sporting events differed and their audience numbers are not strictly comparable with the Olympics viewership.
Only the Indian Premier League (IPL) season 9 final on 29 May between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad topped the viewership of the Sindhu-Marin final with 44.6 million impressions.
But the viewership of the badminton final should not be taken lightly, said media buyers.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Mallikarjun Das, group chief executive at Starcom India, a media buying agency. “This is a very big deal because Sindhu made it to the final. It’s definitely a tipping point in the Olympics viewership this year which has been well received so far,” he said.
Das said the numbers indicate the advent of a new television viewer in India.
“These games have reached new audiences, and people who are not heavy viewers of TV in general have tuned in because the level and quality of competition (at the Olympic Games) makes for compelling viewing,” he explained.
Even brands such as Dabur and Axis Bank Ltd, which took a risk and bet sponsorships money on the Olympics this year, have reaped returns. Das hopes the numbers will augur well for events such as the Premier Badminton League, earlier known as the Indian Badminton League.
To be sure, not all agree. Sam Balsara, founder, chairman and managing director of Madison World, for instance, says the large viewership for Sindhu’s final against Marin was a one-off case. “Any country would watch its athletes win Olympic medals. This doesn’t mean that the next badminton match is going to get high viewership. This was an unprecedented situation. We have not had an Olympic athlete in the finals since god knows when,” said Balsara.
Yet, he conceded there had been a “definite” increase in interest in games other than cricket in the last few years. “Our...winners at the Olympics will only further this cause,” he said.
Sindhu scripted history by becoming the first Indian to ever book a berth in the final of the Olympic badminton singles competition. She is also the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver.
Sakshi Malik’s bronze medal match in the 58kg women’s freestyle wrestling category, in which she pulled off a sensational 8-5 win over Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan in the play-off bout on 18 August, generated 0.087 million impressions.
Gymnast Dipa Karmarkar, who narrowly missed bronze by finishing fourth in the women’s vault event on 15 August, generated 3.3 million impressions.
Rio 2016 generated 210.9 million impressions across nine TV channels, including state broadcaster Doordarshan and official broadcaster Star Sports in its first week, according to the first set of television viewership data for the Olympic Games.
The opening ceremony on 5 August garnered 0.5 million impressions across nine channels.
Even social media was a whirl of activity during the Games. The games generated 75 billion tweets on Twitter; there were 1.5 billion interactions on the Games by 277 million unique users on Facebook and 916 million interactions by 131 million Instagram users over 5-21 August, according to the companies’ blog posts.