NEW DELHI: Sunday’s ICC World Cup final between England and New Zealand proved that cricket is a religion in India. Despite its home team losing to New Zealand in the semi-finals, Indians seem to have watched the match in hordes. At its peak, an estimated 13.5 million people tuned into the match between England and New Zealand on Hotstar, the video streaming service owned by Star India, the official broadcaster of the World Cup tournament. Viewership numbers at the beginning of the match were estimated at one million. Hotstar declined to confirm the numbers reported by viewers who watched the match on Star’s streaming app.

“The cricket World Cup happens once in four years. Of course, India’s presence in the finals would have made it even better, but two strong teams playing a tight match on a holiday were ingredients for great viewership," said Ashish Bhasin, chief executive, Greater South, Dentsu Aegis Network, and chairman and CEO, India.

However, Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, a Mumbai-based marketing and communication agency, said the World Cup final may have lost out on some viewership in India, considering that the match turned interesting only towards the end and nearing midnight—the downside of being played in a different time zone. The Wimbledon finals also provided some competition. He estimated that the final game’s viewership was 30-40% lower than the India-Pakistan match, which witnessed peak concurrent viewership of 15.6 million, according to media reports.

To be sure, Hotstar registered a massive 25.3 million concurrent viewers for the India versus New Zealand semi-final match earlier last week, the company said in a statement. The nail-biting game that India finally lost shattered Hotstar’s own previous world record of 18.6 million set during the VIVO IPL 2019 final. Hotstar also witnessed an increase of 15 million concurrent viewers across multiple matches through the ICC Cricket World Cup.

“We are thrilled about, once again, re-writing the global record for the highest concurrent video viewership anywhere in the world. Using tech in creating a delightful consumer experience is at the core of what we do. With a robust technology backbone, and expertise in driving scale by changing behaviour and growing the category, we look forward to setting new benchmarks and delivering unmatched experiences to all our users," Varun Narang, chief product officer, Hotstar, said in a statement on the India versus New Zealand match.

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