IPL viewership on the Internet is food for thought

During the last few days, the majority of media has reported, with varying degrees of worry and alarm, on the falling viewership of IPL 5 when compared to the previous editions of the tournament. Firstpost has written about the ratings here.

Late yesterday, some more research numbers on IPL viewership were announced – the numbers for the viewership on the Internet and on the mobile platform. “In the first week of the tournament (IPL), including the opening ceremony, the IPL website has already recorded 13.7 million views, as against 8.8 million views last year. This represents a 56 percent growth over last year. Almost 0.6 million viewers have enjoyed the match action on their mobiles over the last seven days on Apalya mobile TV platform across Airtel, Idea and Vodafone. This is double the traffic registered last year,” said a release from Times Internet Limited.

 IPL viewership on the Internet is food for thought

Image from the official IPL website.

This is great news for the IPL, the BCCI, TIL — and for advertisers. Many TV viewers have, simply put, migrated to watching the IPL on digital platforms.

One of the major problems with long tournaments such as the IPL is the ability or inability of the cricket fan in a household to convince those who are opposed to cricket — and there are many such — to allow cricket to rule the prime time. When the cricket fan loses, TV loses the viewer — unless, of course, there is a second TV in the house.

"Barely 6 percent of the 142 million households house more than one television,” said Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, consulting editor, Business Standard, while moderating a panel discussion on TV in October 2011.

The dominance of the single TV household makes it very difficult for broadcasters of special interest or niche programming – and cricket is certainly in that category.

Which is why the spurt in viewership of the IPL on the internet and on mobile is thought-provoking. Have the Internet and mobile ‘arrived’ as the ‘second’ TV with the IPL?

The growth in IPL numbers should be watched closely by programming and distribution heads in other genres which lose out because of the single TV phenomenon. Sports channels and youth channels are the obvious beneficiaries – but they aren’t the only ones. Youth focused channels such as MTV and Channel [V] should be smacking their lips in anticipation, thanks to their target segment clearly being a large part of the digital boom in India.

The advertiser, too, needs to look at the TIL IPL numbers closely. If such large numbers are available on the net and on the mobile, the question advertisers needs to ask themselves is – are they ready for it, from a creative point of view? Do commercials need to take into account the smaller screens? Does bandwidth need to be taken into account, and ‘lighter’ commercials made for the net and mobile?

The numbers that TIL has released need to be studied carefully, as also the numbers for the rest of the tournament. Who is watching? Where? For how long?

For the BCCI and the IPL, these numbers provide much needed relief. Viewers are not deserting cricket, they’re just watching cricket elsewhere.

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Updated Date: Apr 13, 2012 10:55:47 IST