IPL viewership declines, but still a billion people tuned in3 min read . Updated: 10 Jun 2016, 05:25 AM IST
In a departure from the past where eyeballs tended to rise closer to the finals, IPL 9 saw a downward spiral in viewership, week after week
New Delhi: More than a billion people watched the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 tournament this year across five television channels, including Sony Max, Sony ESPN and Sony Six, at the end of 60 matches played from 9 April to 29 May.
Viewerships were calculated by impressions, or television viewership in thousands, which refers to the number of individuals in thousands in a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes.
Total viewership calculated by impressions stood at 1.02 billion, according to data released by TV ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council of India on Thursday.
The final between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad on 29 May clocked 44.68 million impressions, significantly higher than the play-offs that clocked between 22.02 million and 27.21 million impressions.
In a departure from previous years where eyeballs for IPL matches have tended to rise closer to the play-offs and the finals, this year saw an unexpected downward spiral in viewership, week after week—from 147.23 million in the first week (9-15 April) to 130.38 million in the last (22-28 May) just before the finals.
Sony Pictures Networks India, the official broadcasters of IPL 9, said in a statement that the reach of the tournament stood at 361 million viewers.
To be sure, reach and impressions are not comparable.
When compared with the rise of the tournament’s digital viewership this season, Star India’s Hotstar mobile streaming app more than doubled its viewership to 100 million, from 41 million at the end of the previous season.
In February 2015, Star India bid ₹ 302.2 crore to win the global Internet and mobile rights for IPL for a three-year period, beating Times Internet Ltd and Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd.
Sports experts remained divided on the reasons for the decline in IPL 9’s TV viewership.
For Mallikarjun Das, chief executive officer at media buying agency Starcom MediaVest, it is not about viewer fatigue.
“It’s been in the market for nine years. The variation levels here are lesser than a regular soap opera. It’s a staple soap opera for males. Everyone knows about IPL and it’s good, stable entertainment," Das said.
Harish Krishnamachar, a sports management veteran, disagreed. “IPL’s dip in viewership is probably because of viewer fatigue led by a very successful T20 World Cup," which was played from 8 March to 3 April, he said.
But Krishnamachar remained optimistic. “I think the aberrations that may happen on a weekly basis are minor compared to the overall league. It will continue to survive," he said.
Hiren Pandit, chief operating officer at sports infrastructure firm TransStadia, has a different take. He attributed the drop in viewership to the absence of two popular franchises—Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
“According to me, whatever fan base was there for both Chennai and Rajasthan has evaporated and that could have impacted this season. Also, Mumbai Indians not making it to the semi-finals. I think the two new teams (Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions) have not been able to compensate the fan following for Chennai and Rajasthan," Pandit said.
This year, IPL featured two new temporary franchises—Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions—filling in for the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, which were suspended for two years in 2015 after a panel appointed by the Supreme Court probed a two-year-old betting scandal.
To be sure, IPL as a league is maturing and so are its audiences, who are making choices about whether to watch it at the stadium, at home on television or on their mobile devices on the go. Before it turns 10 next year, IPL finds itself in a position where growth will stabilize at more realistic levels from the exponential growth rates it experienced in its early years, analysts said.
“Brand IPL has become a lot more consistent. The first few years saw tremendous growth, in excess of 40-50%, across all revenue segments," said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions. “I think IPL season 5 is when a (price) correction happened across the board and there was a dip in viewership; but today, it’s a property that generates a sustained growth of 10-20%. It’s the sign of a mature product; there are no crazy highs and lows every year."