New Delhi: Star India, the official broadcaster of the Indian Premier League (IPL), said 202 million viewers had logged on to its video streaming platform, Hotstar, to watch the 11th edition of the T20 tournament — a 55.3% jump from last year.

In the 10th edition, 130 million users had tuned in on Hotstar, which has been streaming IPL matches over the last five years.

“I believe that IPL XI has proved to be an inflection point for mobile as a platform becoming mainstream. The viewership numbers on Hotstar are a testimony that digital can be scaled like a mass media platform television," said Ajit Mohan, chief executive, Hotstar.

The final match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings saw a record of 10.3 million viewers logging into Hotstar.

“Throughout the tournament we kept setting new records. We ended the tournament with double digit viewership for the final. We worked with technology partner Akamai Technologies to design a platform that delivers content seamlessly, while the traffic surged," said Mohan.

Hotstar’s march into the record books started in 2017, when it had clocked peak concurrency of 4.8 million simultaneous viewers during the final match of the ICC Champions’ Trophy featuring India and Pakistan — by far the highest in Asia Pacific region back then.

The opening week of IPL 2018 upended this record with 5.5 million concurrency views during the Chennai Super Kings versus Kolkata Knight Riders match on 10 April. It went up to 7.1 million views on 25 April, before attracting 8.26 million concurrent viewers for the 22 May match featuring Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings.

Besides the option of watching the final match on 11 live feeds, Hotstar also offered value-added features such as WatchN’Play to test the fans’ knowledge of the game, use of virtual reality to provide immersive on-field action and special feed that allowed viewers to post emojis while watching the match. “I believe social TV and gaming, which keep the viewer engaged, is the way forward for sports content online," said Mohan.

The rise in viewership translated into high advertising revenues for Hotstar with 70 advertisers signing for this IPL season. Star India, which for the first time had both TV and digital broadcast rights for IPL, sold bundled contracts to advertisers, allowing them to advertise both on its TV channels as well as on Hotstar.

“We believe marketers embraced us because we introduced propositions that went beyond plan vanilla video ads. Whether through participation in the Watch’NPlay game or new ad formats like carousel video ads, we were able to help them bring together their brand and performance objectives that have traditionally been held back in silos,’ said Mohan.

Sulina Menon, senior media expert and chief client officer at media agency OMD India, thinks that Hotstar must have made a killing when it comes to ad revenue given the encouraging viewership figures. “I believe live streaming of cricket is an exciting area, and with increasing viewership Hotstar must have sold its inventory as the tournament progressed," she said.

However, Menon was quick to add that while Hotstar may have done well during the IPL compared to Star’s sports channel, the gap between digital and television is still wide.

“About 560 million viewers watch television on a monthly basis, compared to only 225 million on YouTube, the biggest streaming platform. While live streaming of sports can be scaled, we are far away from matching what television can offer in India," she added.

Last year, Star India had bought the five-year television and digital media rights for IPL for Rs16,347.5 crore.

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