In the opening week, a total of 268 million viewers watched the first eight matches (9 to 16 April) of Indian Premier League (IPL), said IPL’s official television broadcaster Star and Disney India which runs Star Sports
The high-profile cricket extravaganza, the Indian Premier League, has seen a more humble start this year compared to last year, with its television viewership having declined in double digits over 2020, according to data provided by television ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India.
An average of 105 million unique viewers watched 17 matches in the first two weeks of IPL 2021, registering a dip of 9.5% over last year as per BARC data. In 2020, an average of 116 million unique viewers watched 14 matches in the first two weeks of the league. IPL matches started on April 9.
In the opening week, a total of 268 million viewers watched the first eight matches (9 to 16 April) of Indian Premier League (IPL), said IPL’s official television broadcaster Star and Disney India which runs Star Sports, quoting data from BARC. The data represents viewers above two years of age across urban and rural markets. This amounted to a 13% viewership decline over the 2020 edition where seven matches were watched by 269 million viewers. Star did not offer comment on the decline.
Meanwhile, the viewing minutes per match in the ongoing edition stood at 6.62 billion registering over 20% decline over 2020 for the same period. The viewing minutes per match was 8.34 billion in 2020 for 14 matches. The data represent viewers above two years of age who watched live IPL matches on television across the country.
While 2020 could be dubbed as an outlier year where absence of live sports as well as original television content increased the IPL viewership, the ongoing league has witnessed a marginal increase when compared to the 2019 edition in terms of reach and viewing minutes.
This year dwindling viewer interest could be attributed to a virulent second wave of coronavirus which is wreaking havoc across the country with mounting infections leading to lockdowns and massive shortfall in health care system. With no respite in infection rates, the road seems rocky for the popular T20 league which attracts heavy investments.
"There’s definitely an impact of the ongoing grim sentiment in the country on the IPL viewership. Majority of India, either directly or indirectly, is dealing with covid crisis," said a media buyer on condition of anonymity.
From 18 April onwards, Star started telecasting 7pm IPL matches on its popular Hindi GEC channel, Star Plus owing to possible content crunch, a move that is likely to benefit the broadcaster.
“Since the production and shooting has been suspended in Maharashtra due to rising cases, there might be an impact on original programming and fresh content in the coming weeks. This decision will help IPL gain viewers who are looking for a distraction from the grim situation in the country. I’m forecasting a better viewership in May," said Mansi Datta, chief client officer and head – North and East, Wavemaker India, a GroupM-owned media agency.
Apart from viewership, the weekend broadcast on Star Plus is likely to improve advertising as well, said Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, a Mumbai-based marketing and communications agency. “I presume Star must be charging different ad rates for Star Plus given its higher reach," he said.
While majority of IPL advertising inventory is sold through long-term contracts which are signed before the tournament begins, Star India sells spot buys at high premium during the playoff matches in a run up to the finale. These may get impacted in view of the ongoing covid crisis and advertisers taking a precautionary approach. According to media buyers estimates, while a regular 10-second ad spot is sold for ₹13 lakh, spot buys can range from ₹17 lakh to ₹20 lakh depending on the demand.
“The pricing of these spot buys depends on how the tournament has progressed as well as demand and supply. I think Star will manage to get a premium on these spot buys but it may not be as high as expected given the evolving situation in the country," said Dinesh Rathod, chief executive of media agency Madison Media Omega.
In the last two weeks, as covid-19 cases have spiralled touching more than 3 lakh cases per day, advertisers have adopted a wait and watch approach. Key IPL advertisers including PepsiCo India, Mondelez and Parle Agro declined to comment on the viewership.
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