Summer of IPL and a bonanza for the TV

Television continues to be the preferred medium to watch the IPL amongst the majority of Indians.

MUMBAI: In Shaktigarh, a small town, on the outskirts of Burdwan, West Bengal, Ranjan Basu settles down in front of his TV set in his living room. It is all quiet outside, except for the chirping of crickets, as dusk settles. He picks up the TV remote, his finger pressed on the power button as his heart races with excitement.

It’s the final of IPL 2019, featuring the Mumbai Indians and the favourites CSK.  He raises the TV’s volume and the family sits down to what they hope will be an evening of a heart-stopping cricket match. The commentary is in Bengali and the action keeps them on the edge of their seats. For the next four hours, they will be transported to another world, as they find themselves totally engrossed in the fascinating game of T20 IPL cricket on the ubiquitous medium in India: the television.
The scenario is repeated all over the country: in the north, south and the west.

In fact, IPL is the biggest unifier in India. The spectacular event has now become so integral to the socio-cultural narrative of the country during the last one decade that the fans of a particular team leave no stone unturned in showering their love on its players even if they are out of the hometown or the state. Moreover, people’s alacrity to watch the matches with a group on the big screen of TV is not showing any signs of receding.

Even as the naysayers have been saying that television is yielding ground to streaming services, the facts prove otherwise. According to the KPMG report 2019, TV continues to be a critical mass entertainment medium and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.2 per cent between FY19 and FY24 on the back of strong viewership from rural and urban markets as well as continued investment in new regional channels and sports properties by broadcasters.

According to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), television is the widest spread medium in India and one of the most watched pieces of content is sports, and more specifically, the IPL. The TV measurement body revealed that 462 million viewers watched last IPL, 12 percent up from the previous year.

Not only did the number of viewers go up but engagement as well. IPL season twelve garnered 337.7 bn viewing minutes, a 13 per cent increase in live viewership. Along with cumulative reach, average time spent for the last season of IPL also went up by eight per cent, reaching 36.40 minutes.  It’s no wonder that sponsors and advertisers are getting more aggressive to make their presence visible during the league.

Moreover, IPL is not anymore a man’s game. The marriage of entertainment and sports in the biggest cricket showbiz of the country also brought viewers across age groups and genders before TV sets. IPL 2019 saw the highest growth of viewership among kids (2-14 years), an increase of 25 per cent compared to last session. Even female viewership grew by 14 per cent during  the edition. More age groups coming to the League are also increasing the chances of new brand associations.

According to a report by Velocity MR, brands which were not associated with any IPL teams but were advertising heavily during the tournament were seen to be doing better than brands which were associated with a particular team. As per this report, Swiggy and PhonePe are major instances of the brands which reaped benefit from the association with IPL as an advertiser. Total awareness went up by 8 per cent for Swiggy and by 10 per cent for PhonePe, as both the brands were heavily advertised or marketed during the IPL season.

IPL 2019 went deeper into the hinterlands, too. Star’s gambit on regionalization paid rich dividends for the broadcaster. Last year,  there were dedicated Telugu, Kannada and Bangla sports channels for matches. According to BARC data, while viewing minutes in Hindi increased by 18 per cent, other regional languages including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi saw 10 per cent growth. Regional languages other than Hindi got 74.9 bn viewing minutes, which was higher than the viewership that the English language commentary got. We may see local brands trying to associate themselves with the League in coming time.

Sports in general, and the IPL in particular, is a driver for cable TV and DTH subscriptions. While major DTH operators are trying to penetrate deep into TV dark areas, major tournaments like IPL drive that growth.

IPL may have crossed a decade. But the excitement around the League is not ebbing. The brand value of the tournament went up to Rs 47,500 crores in 2019 from Rs 41,800 crores in 2018. With just a month or so left for the next season, we can only see the League shining even better.

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