The Indian Premier League (IPL), a controversy magnet if there ever was one, seems particularly worse off this year, even taking into account its own woeful track record on keeping scandals at bay. The drought situation in Maharashtra have forced the shifting of games out of the state, while and further PILs at Karnataka and Rajasthan High Courts have put a question mark over the availability of alternate venues.
In the midst of all this comes the allegation that the league is becoming too predictable following a startling 19 out of 24 matches this year going in favour of the team bowling first. And a few close finishes notwithstanding, many have also criticised the “boring” nature of the competition. And it now appears that all the controversies have taken their toll on the IPL and hit BCCI where it hurts the most — viewership.
According to latest figures accessed by the Times of India, the average television viewership rating (TVR) this edition of the IPL has managed has just been 3.5. This is a significant drop from the corresponding figure for the first weeks of last year’s IPL, where the average TVR was 4.5 points. In fact, IPL 2016 seems to have the second lowest TVR of all, only behind the dismal 3.1 managed by the 2014 iteration. The cricket league, in 2012 and 2013, garnered 4.6 and 3.8 respectively.
The factors for this could be many — from the many controversies surround the league, to the absence of two of the league’s most popular franchises: Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. Or just viewer fatigue brought in by an overload of cricket. The IPL is following closely on the heels of the World T20 and between the two of them, they account for almost three months of non-stop cricket.
Even at the grounds, there can be seen several empty seats. Especially at venues like Delhi, Mohali and Hyderabad, several matches were played in front of half-empty stadia. And though some other venues, especially Mumbai and Bangalore, are seeing packed grounds and no empty seats, the lack of interest at other places is hurting the image of the IPL.
Several experts, however, feel it’s too early for us to be deciding the fate of the IPL and discussing how popular it will be. The tournament lasts 60 matches, and we haven’t even reached the half-way stage. There are bound to be ebbs and flows and TV viewership and stadium attendance figures are both bound to pick up. Moreover, the early round of matches were drab and one-sided, while the second week has seen more close finishes. This bodes well for the league, as tighter games are likely to improve viewer interest in the cricket. As the league enters the business end, the experts say things will normalise once again and by the time it ends, we would see viewership patterns at par with earlier iterations.