Home >industry >IPL opening matches fail to score a ratings hit

Mumbai: The first six matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) indicate that viewership has dropped since last season, which itself wasn’t as popular with audiences as in the previous years.

For the first six matches played since the tournament began on 4 April, television rating points were an average 3.76 at an all-India level, according to TAM Sports, a unit of TAM Media Research. This is a drop from the 4.63 average rating in the first six matches of IPL4. The data represents all India viewership in cable and satellite homes in the age group of people four years and above.

Slow start: Rajasthan Royals wicketkeeper Shreevats Goswami (left) celebrates as Mumbai Indians batsman Rohit Sharma is bowled out during an IPL Twenty20 cricket match in Mumbai on Wednesday.(Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

The cumulative reach of IPL matches also dropped from approximately 10 million to nine million viewers.

“It’s bad news not just for IPL and Multi Screen Media but for cricket as well," said an executive at a rival sports channel who did not want to be identified. “Last year’s lower ratings were justified by citing World Cup fatigue. What will be the excuse this year?" Season 4 of IPL followed soon after the cricket World Cup.

The broadcaster was having a tough time selling advertising inventory for the Twenty20 league organized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). With just 65-70% of its commercial time sold, as evidenced by the fewer ad breaks so far this season, SET Max was betting big on viewership ratings to hawk its remaining inventory. The poor TAM ratings could make this difficult.

Unlike previous editions of IPL, this time SET Max sold commercial time in packages, for instance of 20 matches. In the past, the broadcaster sold all matches or alternate matches.

“Our focus was on selling the first few matches," said Rohit Gupta, president of Sony Entertainment Television India, confirming the strategy. MSML is the holding company for Sony. “It is too early to comment on the ratings. As the tournament progresses, we hope the ratings will be better with the quality of games improving."

A rival sports channel’s executive said that viewership usually rises for the first few and the last few IPL matches.

“If the initial few matches show poor ratings, the viewership could only be downhill from here," he said, expressing surprise at the numbers, considering most of the matches were played during the extended Good Friday weekend.

The sponsors of the league don’t appear to be unnerved though. Vodafone, one of the largest spenders on IPL, considers that the league has delivered well both in terms of efficiency of reach and effectiveness of on-ground engagement with customers.

As a result, the brand has been associated with the tournament both on the ground and as the league’s presenting sponsor on SET Max since IPL’s inaugural year in 2008.

“It’s too premature for us to comment on our future plans. Our decisions are based on commercial feasibility and marketing objectives," said the Vodafone India spokesperson.

Media buyers said the league can’t be written off just yet.

“It is too early to say how the league will pan out. We’d estimated the viewership to be at the same level as last season or marginally higher. Not a very dramatic change," said Shubha George, COO, South Asia MEC, a media buying and planning agency. A study conducted by MEC on IPL’s television ratings estimates the viewership to stabilize at lower levels than the peaks of earlier seasons.

“After the 29% drop in ratings in IPL4, the average league rating for IPL5 is estimated to be at 3.8%, a marginal 2.5 percentage point increase from the last season. Only 16% of the viewers claim to be weary due to declining interest over the seasons and only 12% said that they would spend lesser time watching IPL this season," the study had stated.

aminah.sheikh@livemint.com

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