The ninth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has proven to be as unpredictable as its preceding seasons, even in terms of ratings. Despite head-turning performances by tournament debutants Gujarat Lions and the magic of RCB’s Virat Kohli, viewership has been consistently low throughout the five weeks of IPL 2016.
Even the magic of Virat Kohli seems to have held no power over TV viewers of IPL-9
Data from the Broadcasting Audience Research Council of India (BARC) shows that viewership for IPL 2016 has been facing a week-on-week fall.
A total of 147.23 million impressions (number of audience exposed to a media schedule) from Sony Max, Sony Six, Sony ESPN, Sony Six HD, Sony ESPN HD were recorded in the first week of the tournament, which reduced to 138.11 million by the end of the fifth week.
There was a drastic dip in television ratings (TVR) between weeks 3 and 4 — from 146.83 million to 133.28 million impressions. Although viewership picked up in week 5 to reach 138.11 million impressions, the numbers show that this was negligible.
IPL 2016 registered an average TVR of 3.50 during its first game week, which is significantly lower than the 4.5 rating it received for the same period in 2015, when the first five matches were sampled by 105 million users.
Therefore, if the first game week itself had a year-on-year drop when compared with the same period in 2015, then the three-week mark, during which ratings fell by almost 15 million impressions, shows a growing disinterest towards the mega T20 tournament.
The first game week of IPL received an average rating of 3.8 TVR in 2013, as compared with its average of 4.64 in 2012 — a proof of its downward trend.
Sports bars and pubs showcasing IPL regularly registered fewer viewers showing up for games. “If there was an average of 250 people coming in to watch each IPL game last year, this time, the number averages at 150 people per match,” said the marketing manager of TAP Resto Bar, whose outlets in Bandra and Andheri screen every match of the IPL.
Rajeev Shukla, chairman of the IPL, however, believes that there has been “a good response” this year. “The eyeballs are increasing. This IPL’s reach is 350 million people in India alone, as compared with 198 million last year. We are also getting good responses from America, Canada, and Australia.”
An aide of Shukla felt that a week-on-week comparison isn’t the way to go. “Last year, there was a blackout during the entire tournament. The final match was the only one that was rated on BARC. The entire tournament could not be rated on BARC. Secondly, in terms of this year, when you do a week-on-week comparison, there are a lot of variables; it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. This is because the number of matches in a week varies, the number of teams playing every week varies, and you have other factors that influence the ratings in that week.”
But on-ground realities tell a different story. Even clients of advertisers, who would earlier pump in large sums of money for advertising during the IPL season, seem to have now shifted their focus.
Saji Abraham, executive director (planning) of marketing communications company Lowe Lintas, said, “There is a bit of an overdose in cricket at present, wherein one tournament is almost indistinguishable from the other. The higher cost of advertising on IPL, combined with alternative sources of communication that are opening up to clients, is probably why advertisers are not running for the IPL as they used to earlier. It (the IPL) used to be a not-to-be-missed kind of opportunity; I guess that’s dimmed. Of course, it is still vastly popular, but is it as much as before? I suspect not.”
Growth on Twitter
Twitter is the only platform to have bucked the trend. But even there, the growth figures are not as high as the previous years’.
According to Aneesh Madani, head of sports partnerships, Twitter India, the IPL has grown by 300% on the microblogging site over the last three years, in terms of followers.
“The IPL is the fastest growing major sports league on Twitter, faster than even the Premier League, NBA and NFL. Between 2014 and 2016, there has been a 270% increase in tweets with the official hashtag of the IPL (#IPL). But specifically, over the last year, there has been a 16% increase in tweets with #IPL. Also, interest in the league has grown as the season has picked up. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen how RCB’s run to get to the playoffs made them the most mentioned team on Twitter this year. Virat Kohli became the most mentioned player on Twitter over the course of the season, and the top moment, which was tweeted this year, was again, an RCB moment when Kohli scored his last 100.”
Real-time videos being tweeted by the IPL handle (@IPL) this year has led to a 52% increase in engagement for the handle. “If you look at the follower growth of the handle this season as compared with the last season, it’s already 12% this year, more than what it was last year,” said Madani.