The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been hogging the limelight this festive season, despite competition from general entertainment channels (GECs).
The 13th edition of the IPL has seen a surge in viewership as compared to previous seasons.
According to the Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC), IPL 2020 has registered 30 percent growth per match in terms of viewing minutes as compared to the 12th edition of the league.
In the first four weeks of the league, which is a total of 32 matches, the IPL registered 7.3 billion viewing minutes and a cumulative reach of 110 million per match. Last year, the league recorded 5.6 billion viewing minutes and had a cumulative reach of 99 million during the first four weeks, which had 35 matches.
The IPL is reaching more viewers as cumulative reach this year has increased 11 percent over last year.
“Children are largely studying from home. Large numbers of working people are working from home. So, at 7:30, when matches start, instead of being on a train or a bus commuting, audiences are waiting before that single TV. And because of IPL, the remote is in the hands of the menfolk. A combination of these factors has led to the spurt in viewership this year,” said Sandeep Goyal, Chairman, Mogae Media, a marketing agency.
The average time spent per match this IPL has increased by 15 percent, with viewers spending over 42 minutes watching the IPL this season versus 37 minutes last season.
Overall, IPL 13 has registered 233.9 billion viewing minutes and has been watched by 361 million viewers in the first four weeks of the league.
In the opening week, the tournament had garnered 269 million viewers and 60.6 billion viewing minutes.
Women skipping soaps, watching IPL
While men may be watching the IPL more, women are not far behind. Indeed, female viewership for the 13th season of the IPL has grown 33 percent as compared to season 12.
In the opening week of the IPL this year, female viewership was recorded at 3.7 billion viewing minutes for the first seven matches. On the other hand, 2.8 billion viewing minutes were recorded for the first eight matches last year.
While female viewership has grown significantly this year, last year, too, more women were watching the IPL. Gautam Thakkar, ex-CEO of sports at Star India, had attributed the rise in female viewership to Star's strategy of content regionalisation. Last year Star had aired matches in eight languages and this year it is airing matches in six languages.
The broadcaster continues its strategy of airing matches on channels other than its sports channels. So, like last year, viewers can watch IPL matches even on Star Gold (a Hindi movie channel), Star Pravah (Marathi GEC), Maa Movies (Telugu), Star Suvarna Plus (Kannada movie channel) and Jalsha Movies (Bengali).
Among the lot, Star Sports 1 Hindi continues to top the viewership charts according to BARC data.
So, what about GECs and their programming?
The IPL is eating into the viewership of GECs, which has always been the case. However, this year, the GECs’ woes have been compounded with the IPL taking place during the festive season.
According to a report by ICICI Securities, the start of IPL 13 resulted in a drop in viewership for Hindi GECs as impressions dipped by 7.7 percent in week 38 (the period between September 19 to 25) from the previous week.
The report notes that channels such as Sony SAB and Star Plus have seen a drop in viewership share.
However, GECs and movie channels belonging to the Star network that are airing IPL matches have seen a significant jump in viewership.
In week 38, channels such as Star Pravah and Star Jalsha saw a big jump in their share, with Star Jalsha taking the top position, displacing Zee Bangla.
Disney+Hotstar gets an IPL bump
Disney+Hotstar, the digital platform streaming the IPL, has seen the league grabbing the attention of online viewers as well.
The ICICI Securities report notes that Disney+ Hotstar has seen a 99 percent week-on-week rise in its user base in the opening week and the IPL is likely to be the driver for this growth.