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IPL threat dwindles for rival broadcasters, cinemas, OTTs

IPL is as big a business in India as it is a craze: The total viewership of last year’s edition ran into 242 billion minutes.Premium
IPL is as big a business in India as it is a craze: The total viewership of last year’s edition ran into 242 billion minutes.

  • While sports continues to be a major customer acquisition tool, media experts say all OTT platforms are rapidly investing in long-form, particularly regional content to woo viewers while broadcasters continue with show launches and long, special episodes

NEW DELHI : The country's annual cricket jamboree the Indian Premier League (IPL) is off to a lukewarm start this year, bringing some good news for rival broadcasters and streaming platforms and theatre owners who would see nearly 50% dip in viewership and footfalls until a few years ago around the time that the tournament was aired. 

While TV networks are no longer holding back on dramatic twists or grand episodes, the sense is that web shows and movies with social media buzz and marketing hype are not constrained by appointment viewing and viewing habits have been established for good, which explains why show and movie launches have continued in this period. 

Offerings like Dasvi (Netflix), Abhay (ZEE5) and Gullak (SonyLIV) have managed considerable traction over the past two weeks. Unlike earlier, films too aren’t holding back from releases in theatres and titles like KGF: Chapter 2 have set the cash registers ringing, with the Hindi version alone having crossed the 300 crore mark at last count. 

While sports continues to be a major customer acquisition tool, media experts say all OTT platforms are rapidly investing in long-form, particularly regional content to woo viewers while broadcasters continue with show launches and long, special episodes.

“As of 2022, IPL is not a threat to rivals on either the cable television or OTT platform side which it used to be until 2019," said a senior executive at a broadcast network, adding that there is only so much to the IPL story whereas other television channels and digital platforms are springing up a variety of options every day especially since the covid-19 pandemic hit. 

The fact that social media is not abuzz with memes, corporate corridors aren’t filled with post-match analysis from the previous night and even in bars and clubs, people being indifferent to the IPL, is a sign that fans haven’t found a connect with the franchises yet, said Sidharth Singh, co-founder of marketing agency CupShup.

Viewership ratings of other TV channels could see up to a 50% drop around the time of the tournament earlier, the television executive said but that is not the case now given that audience sets have fragmented to discover a variety of programming especially over the past two years and attention is much tougher to grab now. All channels track IPL ratings closely, the person said but this time, while they are not laidback, they see no reason to defer launches or big dramatic episodes.

Nikhil Gandhi, chief operating officer, MX Medi, said the company’s video streaming platform MX Player has seen growth during the IPL as it brings more and more people to the digital ecosystem, who in the process, also discover newer areas of video entertainment which have the right context and content to serve their palette. 

“The growth in the digital ecosystem is taking place in tier-two and tier-three segments which have a very different drive. The advent of short video has also added new areas of entertainment consumption and, therefore, time spent online. Viewers have moved away from mainstream, mundane old content to newer areas and avenues and short video is one of them," said Gandhi whose service will see its reality show Lock Upp reach its finale is in the middle of IPL, besides having launched titles like Roohaniyat and Dhahanam.

Services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and SonyLIV did not respond to Mint’s queries on impact of the IPL on project launches or viewership. TV networks such as Sony, Zee and Viacom18 also didn’t respond.

Amit Wadhwa, chief executive officer, dentsu Creative India, said while a possible hypothesis, for lower IPL viewership and buzz, could be that people are switching between other ongoing matches or moving to different content on OTT or TV channels, OTTs themselves are doing a lot to woo the viewer with big releases and a fair amount of promotion for the same. The past few weeks has seen big movie premieres such as Dasvi on Netflix and originals such as the third season of family drama Gullak on SonyLIV.

“Originals and long-format web shows are the only way to go for a streaming platform now. Also, unlike major movies or sports properties, they are also cost effective as many platforms have discovered a way to hit the sweet spot between 5-10 crore per season," said a senior executive at a streaming platform.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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