New Normals: IPL eyeballs rewrite viewership benchmarks
An extraordinary season of the IPL came to a close Tuesday night in Dubai with Mumbai Indians emerging triumphant for their fifth title win. It’s the most won by a franchise (the next highest is CSK with 3), but MI weren’t the only ones pushing benchmarks, the IPL 13’s audience did too. ITW Core’s Vidushi Bhandari picks the top three trends.
- An expanding viewer base – Nail biting thrillers, super overs and constantly changing fortunes of franchises, coupled with the return of live cricket after about 7 months, ensured that the 13th edition of the league was the biggest ever. The opening match itself recorded a viewership of 200 million, which is the highest opening day viewership for any sporting event. As per data from BARC, the first 32 matches registered a cumulative reach of 110 million per match and registered 7.3 billion viewing minutes, jumping by an astonishing 30% from the previous year. The tournament also saw an increase of 15% in average time spent per match as compared to the last season which suggests that people were tuning in for longer. These numbers seem even more staggering when you take into account the fact that the tournament this year was broadcast on 3 fewer channels.
With BCCI announcing that IPL 14 will be played next year as per normal schedule, it remains to be seen whether the next edition can keep pace with its predecessor and if the short gap of 6 months between the two editions has an effect on viewership. However, given the current direction of tides, there is a huge possibility that the next edition keeps up with this edition or even surpasses it.
- Sustained Interest – Traditionally, the viewership of long sporting tournaments follows a U-shaped trend. It starts on a high and usually sees a small slump during the middle stages, eventually picking up again towards the end. The IPL too, in its previous seasons has not been immune to this. However, this season the league bucked this trend and continued to see record highs throughout the season. As per ITW Core estimates, the viewership grew by about 38%, 23% and 20% from last year for weeks 3, 4 & 5 respectively. For the same period, this amounted to a rise of around 90 million viewers for the top 5 matches each week. With pent-up demand, festive season and increased TV and internet penetration in play, this season has truly been a record breaking one.
- A Global Foray – The 13th edition of the IPL has seen its viewership base grow not just in India, but also in the international market, particularly the UK. According to the Broadcasting Audience Research Board (BARB) of the UK, an average of over 200,000 people from the country watched the IPL everyday and the week of October 12-18 recorded 1.7 million live viewers of IPL on Sky Sports Cricket, the pay-tv broadcaster with rights to the league. These numbers seem even more astonishing when compared to the viewership figures of English Premier League in a football crazy nation. Some of the highest watched EPL matches post resumption, Liverpool versus Sheffield United and Arsenal versus Leicester, recorded 110,000 and 140,000 viewers, respectively. The opening match of the IPL, between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, was watched by around 168,000 viewers, according to Sky Sports data. In 2018, the opening match between the same teams was viewed by around 90,000 viewers, implying a sky-high viewership jump of about 86% in the United Kingdom.
It may have been fielded by more England cricketers being part of the action, but these trends of broadened reach bode well as positive indicators for all stakeholders including advertisers, the league and the franchises.