SET MAX never had it so good. A heady cocktail of money, glamour and a fast-paced game have ensured that 131 million viewers have at some point already watched the Indian Premier League, or IPL, matches the television channel is broadcasting, much to the chagrin of other TV genres including news and general entertainment.
The Twenty20 cricket matches, played and aired live on prime time between 8pm and 11pm through the week and also on weekend afternoons between 4pm and 6pm, have seriously dented viewership of rival channels.
A viewership analysis by MindShare Insights has revealed that the percentage of people watching sports has jumped to 19.94% between 4 April and 12 April from 6.63% between 18 April and 26 April.
General entertainment channels that air Hindi programmes and include Sony, Star Plus and Zee TV, have seen their viewership share decline to 13.93% from 16.72%.
Similarly, Hindi news’ share dropped to 2.85% from 3.49%, business news to 0.28% from 0.35%, and Hindi movie channels to 4.89% from 6.08%.
The craze for IPL is such that even kids and English general entertainment channels lost viewership share to 3.87% from 3.91%, and to 0.15% from 0.22%, respectively.
MindShare Insights, the research arm of media buying agency MindShare, itself a subsidiary of London-based communications services conglomerate WPP Group Plc., sourced the data for the study from Mumbai-based television audience measurement agency TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd.
The interest in the cricket league has also brought up the country’s overall television ratings across all channels from an average 2.8% to 5.08% during the first nine days of the matches, while the television ratings points, or TRPs, of IPL alone have averaged 5.2% during the same period.
“The data indicates that the time spent watching TV has gone up for the country because of IPL,” says Gowthaman Ragothaman, managing director of MindShare.
The study finds that IPL has found takers across India with 131 million people having watched the matches at some time or the other. SET MAX may have West Bengal to thank for the largest contribution of eyeballs as the state brought in 36.7 million viewers, that is, 64% of the state’s population.
This helped it to top the ranking among the surveyed regions, which include Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, New Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerela.
Among the six metros surveyed, which include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai, the maximum viewership was recorded at Kolkata and Hyderabad, followed by New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai.
Although IPL has been marketed as entertainment for the youth, the study found it’s also popular among older people aged between 35 and 55 years.
“India is still predominantly a single-TV household market. So, if majority in the family wants to see one particular show, others have to comply. In this case, majority preference seems to have been cricket,” says Ragothaman.
The survey also found that even though IPL viewership continued to be dominated by men, it also saw an encouraging participation by women, who accounted for 37% of the viewership pie.
“The interest from women has spurred a new revenue generation opportunity for us. We are already getting calls from brands targeted at women,” said Rohit Gupta, Sony Entertainment Television Network’s (the parent company of Sony and SET)president of network sales and revenue management, digital and syndication.
The overwhelming audience response has justified the investment of Rs4,048 crore that SET, along with sports management company World Sport Group, made to win the IPL broadcast rights from the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
MindShare Insights says SET MAX has recorded 452% internal growth in channel viewership between 6pm and 1am since IPL began. The channel’s reach also increased 65% and the average time individuals spent on it jumped by an average of 140 minutes when compared with the average time spent nine days before the league began.
Even as Gupta termed the response to IPL “overwhelming”, experts say it will be interesting to see how the second half of the tournament pans out.
“Despite impressive initial response, we will have to wait and watch if the viewer interest drops because of fatigue or predictability,” says Ragothaman.
“As we move to the second half, we will notice that the performances are getting increasingly polarized, with the likely winners clearly on top and losing teams struggling at the bottom. And this could lower the excitement and interest level for many, who tuned in initially for the hype.”