The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, currently aired on Star India network, is unable to attract the viewership it recorded for the 2017 season when aired on Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) channels.
Star India network acquired the broadcasting rights of the competition this year after acquiring global media rights for a colossal Rs 16,347.5 crore.
According to stats from the Economic Times, the network registered 302.8 million viewers above the age of 20 in India in rural and urban locations throughout 17 live matches. This figure is spread across 10 Star India channels broadcasting the cricket matches, namely, Star Sports 1 (SD+HD), Star Sports (SD+HD), Star Sports 1Tamil, Star Sports Select 1 (SD + HD), Star Suvarna Plus (Kannada), Star Maa Movies (Telegu) and Star Jalsha (Bengali).
Last year during the IPL 2017 Season, the total number of matches broadcasted on television attracted an audience which was marginally higher (4%) at 316.4 million viewers. Comparatively, Sony was broadcasting matches across five channels, namely, Sony Max, Sony Six (SD+HD) and Sony ESPN (SD+HD). As for Hindi speaking markets (HSM), it generated an audience of 219.7 million, which is 20% higher that this season’s reach of 176.5 million. Reach means the total number of individuals who viewed the event for at least one minute.
It is worth noting that the statistics provided takes account of viewership for live matches only with no consideration for highlights or wrap-around shows. The statistics do not include viewership of DD Sports as were which airs a match per week with a delay of one hour.
Star India is distributing the live broadcast on 5 additional channels compared to last year’s 5 channels proposed by Sony in a bid to penetrate the audience reach deeper in India, investing on vernacular languages to attract viewership in the different parts of the country. The drop in viewership for live matches is a considerable cause of concern for Star India for it promised advertisers a higher reach by delivering the matches in regional languages.
Overall, the viewership of IPL 11 in the territory of India, inclusive of live matches, opening ceremony, wrap-around shows and other IPL related shows and highlights, stands at 378.6 million, which is 11% higher compared to the 340.8 million registered in IPL 10.
Another factor influencing this figure however is the broadcasting of IPL related programmes significantly increased this year, therefore resulting in an increase of 4.8% in viewership to 416 impressions, compared to the 397 million impressions recorded the previous year. According to BARC, impressions is “the number of individuals of a target audience, averaged across minutes.”
Hotstar The Saviour
However, the trump card of Star India for driving additional viewership for the IPL matches lies in its homegrown digital streaming service, Hotstar, which is currently leading the digital streaming service in India. In the first week of IPL 2018, Hotstar registered a record 82.4 million viewers, which accounts for over 22% of the tournament’s overall viewership and signified a 76% growth over the last year on IPL matches streamed on the digital platform.
Additionally, Star India’s Hotstar also set a global record for the total number of concurrent viewers for a single event on April 10 in the cricket match between CSK vs KKR which witnessed a massive 5.5 million concurrent viewers. The record was then broken a week later by Hotstar itself when it crossed the six million concurrents figure during the MI vs RCB game on April 17. Concurrent viewers is defined as “how many viewers are watching the stream at each second. As viewers join and leave the stream, this number will fluctuate up and down.”
Huge Traction in South India
Star India should be thankful to the Southern Indian markets for driving viewership on the IPL matches, especially since the Hindi speaking markets witnessed a significant drop. The reach in South India alone stands at 126.3 million, which is a 31% increase from the 96.7 million recorded last year. The return of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the competition must surely be the best explanation to this considerable rise.