IPL vs GECs: Experts play down the league's impact on the latter's numbers

Broadcasters know to consciously plan for the upheaval caused by the IPL.

MUMBAI: The countdown to the country's biggest cricketing extravaganza, the Indian Premier League (IPL), has begun. Any doubts about the popularity of the IPL can be laid to rest if the viewership of the thirteenth edition of the tournament is taken into account. According to BARC, IPL 13 viewership grew by 23 per cent compared to the preceding edition, with overall 400 billion viewing minutes.

Meanwhile, GECs are lining up new fiction and non-fiction properties to counter this Goliath. However, experts believe that the whole television ecosystem is so accustomed to this phenomenon that it will hardly make any difference. Broadcasters are used to devising strategies in advance to compete against the IPL for eyeballs and ad revenue.

IPL to not have major impact on GECs

Last year, due to the onset of the Covid2019 pandemic, the IPL was delayed by close to six months, and when it took place, it coincided with the launch of impact properties like Bigg Boss, Kaun Banega Crorepati on GECs. Back then, analysts had pointed out how these marquee shows were unable to garner TRPs like their previous editions due to the clash with the cricketing league. However, IPL 2021 is happening at its usual time.

Wavemaker India sports national director Jigar Rambhia asserted that the tournament has nothing to do with festive or non-festive time period, viewers tune into the IPL regardless.

Thinking along similar lines, Ormax Media CEO Shailesh Kapoor revealed, “There has traditionally been a 10-20 per cent drop in viewership of genres like GEC, movies and news because of the IPL. This has now been a known impact for almost a decade, and broadcasters plan for it consciously.”

How broadcasters are prepping

IPL matches are played in two slots – in the afternoon from 3.30 and in the evening from 7.30. The question arises how primetime shows are going to perform during this time frame. The common notion is that single TV homes will opt for the IPL, with GEC shows being watched between the match breaks or viewers tuning into them when the matches end.

Zee TV business head Aparna Bhosle disagreed with this viewpoint.

According to her, Hindi GECs over many years have managed to sustain viewership and even grow despite the IPL. “Long running fiction or non-fiction shows have, by and large, not seen an adverse impact on viewership due to existing fan bases and the loyalty channels’ command in terms of appointment viewership,” she noted.

Viacom18 chief content officer Manisha Sharma, during an earlier conversation, had mentioned that the network’s flagship Hindi GEC Colors will continue to spice up its existing fiction line-up with consistent highpoints across all shows, while dance reality show Dance Deewane 3 will safeguard the weekends. “With our strong weekday & weekend programming line-up, we are sure to protect our ratings from the IPL brunt,” she had stated.

However, Kapoor is of the opinion that prime-time shows will witness a ratings drop, ranging from 10 per cent for the popular programmes, and up to 20-30 per cent for the middling ones.

Rambhia was of the view that broadcasters are unlikely to launch new programs that directly clash with the IPL. “There are some networks who are in fact putting their original content on Sunday afternoon when there is no match. For e.g. if any GEC is putting their show at 12 pm it can easily get over by 3.30 when the match will start. I believe Filmfare is also going to premiere at 12 pm,” he added.

Audience engagement through different devices

Kapoor shared that the consumption of IPL on digital (Disney+ Hotstar) is largely driven by solo viewing and out-of-home consumption, such as during travel. When the family wants to watch a serial on a GEC, an IPL fan in the house will watch the match online at that time.

Growth of online consumption has created more viewing choices within the family, and this doesn't harm GECs in any way; in fact, it helps to some extent, he opined. Additionally, while HD homes are a niche group, one doesn't expect their viewing dynamics of IPL to be too different from SD homes.

“We are still a single TV household. There is a consumption happening on mobile phones and other mediums but for genres to target specific people on various platforms will take some time. Largely, we are still a TV viewing country. So, it is not going to make much difference,” Rambhia detailed.

How GECs fare in terms of advertisement

When it comes to advertising, experts are confident that GECs will fetch their usual ad rates. Rambhia revealed that since January, advertising rates are at an all-time high. He shared, “In terms of inventory, I don’t think television channels are getting impacted. Because at the end of the day, only a certain percentage of advertising is available on IPL then you have other players who advertise on GECs. Whereas there are some categories and brands like cola which advertises on both IPL and GEC.”

Kapoor pointed out that there has been no major impact on ad rates, as most bigger deals are for a longer period, like six to 12 months.

“Over years, advertisers who want to be seen on IPL have allotted budgets to it, some of which have come from other media like print and outdoor, while some have been diverted from other genres on TV like GECs. But IPL is so settled now that we cannot call this an impact anymore. It's more like a norm now, whereby advertisers make their annual plans keeping IPL in mind,” he shared.

It will be interesting to see if GECs are able to hold their own against the IPL come 9 April. Or will the shorter gap between the 13th and 14th edition play against the league’s favour? However the chips may fall, for now the game is on!

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