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NEW DELHI : The much-awaited Indian Premier League (IPL) may have returned after a year-and-a-half to a cricket-starved country like India, but it has not managed to take away eyeballs from general entertainment, news, film or other television genres this time. Usually, the IPL season causes a 10-15% dip in viewership for other genres. But broadcasters say that covid-19 has led to a change in consumption patterns on TV with people watching programmes through the day, including in non-prime time slots, thereby balancing numbers for non-sports channels.

For instance, according to BARC data, Kundali Bhagya, the top show in the Hindi GEC (general entertainment channel) market only dropped to 12.4 million impressions last week from 13.3 million in the week before that. The top Hindi news channel, Republic Bharat saw 2.7 billion impressions decline to 2.2 billion. In fact, as far as regional languages go, the top Tamil show, Poojai which had garnered 8.8 million impressions in the previous week was replaced by Namma Veettu Pillai at 10.7 million impressions. Impressions refer to the number of individuals in thousands of a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes. BARC is the country’s TV monitoring agency, according to whose latest report there are 68 million more individuals watching TV all seven days of the week, and 22% higher viewership, compared to pre-covid.

“High impact properties like sporting events bring in more audiences to television which leads to an increase in viewership for other genres as well," said Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer, domestic broadcast business at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. Agarwal added that even though the tournament is being held in the festive period unlike the summer months this year, it has had a negligible impact overall on the GEC and movie genres with the two witnessing a slight dip of 3% and 5% respectively, compared to the pre-IPL week.

“With the resumption of fresh content across GECs over the last few months, we are seeing the viewer unit change primarily from women audiences to a family viewing unit which has increased the overall TV consumption base," Agarwal said, adding that the network is customizing its offerings to cater to the entire family and make for a holistic viewing experience.

As more male audiences add onto the viewership pie during the IPL, there is higher engagement witnessed on other genres and primetime programming is tweaked to include more male-inclusive themes. For instance, Zee has come up with a new soap Ram Pyaare Sirf Humare this week and will be premiering films like Dabangg 3 on Zee Cinema and Omerta on &pictures, among other initiatives.

Soumit Deb, general manager at GroupM-owned media agency MediaCom said advertisers are bullish on non-sports channels despite the advent of the IPL, especially categories such as e-commerce and consumer durables as they continue to see potential in genres like movie channels with cinemas some time away from reopening.

“Some primetime slots may get impacted given that IPL is a really big franchise but overall TV will only have more viewers coming in," Deb said.

Films and webs shows on OTT (over-the-top) video streaming platforms that may have ordinarily seen a dip in viewership thanks to IPL being streamed on Disney+ Hotstar, report little impact on viewership as the tournament is behind paywall. In fact, VoD platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, ZEE5, among others, have lined up a bunch of new offerings, including direct-to-digital movies and original web shows as the festive season gets underway. Not only are people expected to stay home this year, their appetite for media consumption has improved vastly, owners of these services say.

“We haven’t seen any visible difference in viewership in the first two weeks. This may also have to do with the fact that OTT viewing is based on personal discovery and done in one’s own time," said Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO, Hungama Digital Media adding that the OTT ecosystem has anyway added 60-70 million new consumers over the past six months. These numbers may stabilize as people begin to step out of home, but are unlikely to see a radical dip as a definite habit creation has already taken place.

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