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Challenge mounts on Max as inventory remains unsold

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MUMBAI: After a smooth ride for the first four seasons, IPL’s official broadcaster Max has hit the rough patch this year with only six official sponsors on board compared to ten sponsors that it was targeting.

Max has roped in Vodafone and Idea 3G smart phone as co-presenting sponsors while the co-sponsors include Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Havells, Pepsi and Tata Photon. Additionally, the broadcaster has five sponsors on board for the wraparound show ‘Extraaa Innings‘.

MSM president network sales, licensing and telephony Rohit Gupta puts up a brave face, saying that the channel is doing deals and is not trying to hold anything back. He admits that the going was tough as there was uncertainty among advertisers about the performance.

“Our marketing campaign has helped improve the mood in the market,” he asserts.

Gupta also said that unlike last time when it could not get the premium for the unsold inventory once the ratings had come in, this time the channel is selling whatever it can. Generally around 15-20 per cent of airtime is sold once the event starts while the premium depends on the first week‘s ratings.

What could make things tough for Max is that expectations from this edition are not that high. The fourth edition of “MEC IPL TV Rating Estimation Study” powered by Meritus Analytics India states that while the IPL has not lost its charm, the viewership is expected to stabilise at lower levels than the peaks of early seasons.

After the 29 per cent drop in ratings in IPL4, the average league rating for IPL5 is estimated to be at 3.8 per cent, a small 2.5 per cent increase from the last season. If this turns out to be the case, then it may not be enough for Max to ask for a high premium for unsold inventory if the first week‘s ratings are not exciting.

Media buyers too have said that Max may get an increase in revenue over the previous edition only if the performance is much better. “In a difficult economic environment, the fight over deliveries becomes tougher,” says a buyer refusing to be identified.

On a positive note for MSM, the earlier mentioned study notes that only 16 per cent of the viewers are weary due to declining interest over the seasons and only 12 per cent said that they will spend lesser time watching IPL this season. On an average, 15 per cent have watched any IPL match at the stadium

Vodafone India senior VP brand communication and insights Anuradha Aggarwal maintains that the IPL has delivered very well both in terms of efficiency of reach and effectiveness of on ground engagement.

“We have KPIs on both reach as well as level of engagement with any sporting platform that we invest in and IPL has satisfactorily delivered on all our KPI’s and hope the trend continues this year as well,” she says.

Asked about the dip in ratings last year, she explains that there are a lot of factors which impact ratings like availability of players, intensity of competition, the teams in fray for the knock outs, how close the matches are as well as the amount of cricket played before the tournament.

“It is difficult to single out one of reason for dip in ratings,” Aggarwal avers.

But she maintains that the IPL still remains the biggest sports platform to reach out to customers. “IPL from the onset was broader in engagement than just cricket as a sport. It was designed in a way to appeal to a wider spectrum of consumers. So it is not losing its USP,” she points out.

Interestingly, the MEC study notes that Nokia, Pepsi and Coke are the only brands to maintain the brand recall value. Dwelling on the team support, the report says that the second and third seasons had observed an almost equitable support across teams. Favourite team and player popularity have been the key reasons to support a team.

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