Television

Headbanger's Ball

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Usually my Sunday afternoon siestas are broken by Barking Boxer. He lives in the building behind ours and his weekly treat is playing cricket with his human friends on the street. He cheers loudly and unreservedly. Last Sunday, he went ballistic. The size of the ball in the narrowness of the playing area confused him and drove him ecstatic at the same time - that's right, the kids next door had switched to footer.

As had the whole country. Not just Kerala and Goa and West Bengal. Finally, cricket fever is abating. Forgive this terrible indiscretion, but I never could understand what millions saw in twenty two men in long pants chasing a tiny ball around a wide open field, every thirty excruciating seconds, and could keep at it for hours, even days, together.

By now, the evidence that football fever has overtaken cricket is all over the place - the viewership figures of 5.2 million speak for themselves. In a couple of weeks, Intellect will tell us how much out of home television viewing occurred as well, and I would not be surprised if that added a good 50 per cent to the overall.

Last Sunday gave us the unusual and perhaps unlikely occurrence of two awesome live telecast finals almost back to back. Not middle of the road pop music cricket, but the intense mastery of stroke making jazz music tennis at primetime, and the ultimate headbanger's ball later that night. From the classy Federer sporting a pristine white jacket bearing his family insignia, to the crassness of a skirmish that a hero will regret all his life, the evening kept audiences glued to their sets.

In sheer numbers, the total home viewing audience on July 9th in the top six cities went up by 33 per cent over the average Sunday (the average Sunday itself including a live telecast ODI cricket match between home team India and the West Indies at prime time on May 28). One and a half million more viewers were added, with the audience post 11 pm alone shooting up from 2.1 million to 4.1 million viewers. Average viewing minutes post 11 pm nearly doubled from 56 to 92 minutes.

By now, the evidence that football fever has overtaken cricket is all over the place - the viewership figures of 5.2 million speak for themselves

_____****_____

The maximum increase percentage wise was observed among male children aged 4 to 14 years - at 43 per cent. Boxer's friends sure had a well filled day that day. While the maximum increase in volumes was observed among the 35 plus. 3.75 lakh more men tuned in to watch television on Awesome Twosome Sunday, up from 9 lakh men over 35 in these six cities on an average Sunday in summer. Plus a whole lot more in pubs, clubs and friend's places.

And hold your breath - 3.34 lakh more women over 35 too! (One of them being me.)

All in all it was a sports lover's treat, of course, but not just limited to the sports lover. And that's what makes this story all that more interesting. It holds out promise for all the other deserving but so far unsupported sport in this country. Add plenty of eye candy to the promotion of the sport, speed things up a bit, pour in millions of dollars, globalize the players keeping up with the worldly new definition of 'home', and who knows - twenty years down the line, Barking Boxer - or his progeny - could well be keeping time to hu-tu-tu.

(With grateful thanks to aMap for the data and Deepa Menon of Intellect - LMG for the analysis).

(The author is Lintas India Director of Media Services)

(The views expressed here are those of the author and Indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)

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