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CT '17 final nets more viewers than hockey game

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NEW DELHI: On 18 June 2017, India faced off with arch rival Pakistan in two different venues in England amidst tension at the international border of the two countries and TV studio-generated hype. The results in the two games were different as were the television viewership trends, clearly highlighting that despite jingoism cricket overshadowed hockey as far Indian viewers were concerned.

For the records, 18 June was dubbed a `Super Sunday’ for sports as India was playing Pakistan in the final of Champions Trophy cricket in England, the Indian hockey players were up against Pakistan in a match in Hockey World League, again in England, while shuttler K. Srikanth was playing the final at Indonesian Open.

The results: in cricket, India crashed to a humiliating defeat, while in the other two games the national flag fluttered high as India thrashed Pakistan 7-1 in hockey and Srikanth won the badminton title in Jakarta.

But what were the viewing trends that Sunday even while some former Indian Army generals cried hoarse in TV studios against India-Pakistan cricket match? According to BARC India data, a majority viewed the loosing game of cricket of course, which got an all-India viewership of

71,193 (’000) Impressions vs. a measly 278 (’000) Impressions for the hockey game.

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Interestingly, while the CT2017 India-Pakistan final was aired live across five channels of Star Sports and Doordrashan National, the hockey match, which threw up a more heart-warming result, aired on only two channels of Star Sports.

Now let’s see how the rural and urban viewers responded? It becomes evident that on an all-India basis a large swathe of rural viewers of 2+ years saw the cricket final match between arch rivals on pubcaster DD

National that is available terrestrially as well as via satellite. DD’s rural viewership share was 14,761 (’000) Impressions.

If data for all the five Star Sports channel are taken together the combined viewership data would outstrip that of DD National but no single Star channel came close to pubcaster’s figures that could also indicate somewhat to its under-exploited reach.

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A majority of urban viewers of 2+ years, 16889 (’000) Impressions, however, preferred Star Sports’ Hindi language SD channel, while DD

garnered 9791 (’000) Impressions. The HD versions of Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 Hindi garnered much lower viewership, probably highlighting that HD still has much ground to cover in urban areas too.

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It must be clarified here that though the pubcaster cornered fairly impressive viewership for the cricket match, the rights holder for the cricket match for the India region was Star India, which has to share the feeds of cricket matches under government regulations. Moreover, the cricket feeds supplied to DD were `clean’ that allowed the pubcaster to sell commercial airtime of its own if it wanted to.

The following charts with BARC data also give some insights into viewership trends --- like on an all-India basis lesser number of viewers aged over 51 years watched the India-Pakistan final or the hockey match between the two countries:

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Why is it that India roots for cricket more even when the country plays against arch rival Pakistan in other games like hockey or Indian sportspeople like shuttlers K. Srikanth, P.V. Sandhog, Saina Nehwal or archers like Deepika Kumari and wrestlers bring national glory?

Senior sports journalist Norris Pritam offers an explanation: “Over the years Indian performance at world level has largely diminished, while in cricket we have been winning. Due to monetary reasons, TV channels have pushed and promoted cricket beyond logical reasons, while in hockey, for example, even the national championship is not covered. Even badminton, where Indians have been doing well on the global

stage, TV coverage and government support is comparatively less. Lack of (adequate) push and encouragement is a big reason for this skew towards cricket.”

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