The Indian Premier League (IPL) this year started with fragmented viewership, with online medium gaining a lot of traction from the broadcast medium. Since week 1 the online medium reach has increased from 3.20 million to 5.24 million (Source: IMRB). The number of people watching matches online has gone up by almost 30 per cent this year.
Ajit Mohan, Digital Head, STAR India shared, “The viewership on Starsports.com has gone to 1.6 million per day from 1 million when the tournament started. There has been a 40 per cent increase in traffic. There has been a robust fragmentation of viewers on broadcast as people do not have time to watch full matches. The election fever has not affected digital viewership.”
As far as television is concerned, the viewership has been high over the weekends or on holidays, otherwise the viewership has been moderate. The numbers and the reach for obvious reasons, however, have been very high as compared to the digital medium.
Neeraj Vyas, EVP and Business Head, Set Max, however, feels that there has been no fragmentation and that IPL on TV continues to foster reach for brands. “The reach of the tournament has increased tremendously. I don’t feel that there is any fragmentation of viewership; however, people are not watching all the matches as they used to earlier. IPL still is the fastest reach building platform. Due to the ‘world cup of elections’ going on currently, I believe that the viewership is slightly affected, but will bounce back as the election fever ends,” he added.
Fragmentation and GECs So, is the viewership this year fragmented? Has this fragmentation also benefited the GECs and in particular Star Plus, which continues to be way above its peers in the GEC genre?
There is no question over the fact that the sampling of IPL on the online medium has increased. Not only among the mobile youth, but also among people who do not have constant access to TV. On the other hand, just on the basis of TAM numbers one cannot exactly deduce the number of people watching a particular match, as in general, ratings do not include multiple people accessing one screen. Another angle is that in certain cases, in a single TV household with good broadband connection, the second screen has become equivalent to the first screen and, therefore, IPL and GECs are watched simultaneously in prime time.
On the other hand, Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia remarked, “IPL viewership is fragmented because many people have shifted to the online medium. It is not likely that TV as a medium has declined, but as smartphone penetration in the country has surged, the ratio of people shifting to the online medium is increasing. Therefore, the overall viewership of the tournament hasn’t declined, it has just fragmented. The GEC viewership, on the other hand, remains the same, but due to IPL viewership fragmentation, it only appears strong.”
Future Brands has invested close to Rs 20 crore on IPL 7 and in general, also invests heavily on GECs. Sandip Tarkas, President (Customer Strategy) and CEO, Future Brands feels that there is no question of fragmentation here. “There has been a slight fragmentation as a portion of audiences has moved online and the start of the tournament has been slightly low. I am confident that there will be a surge in viewership as the tournament moves forward. GECs are a different genre anyways, and the loyal GEC audience does not migrate to other genres in any given condition,” he noted.
GECs remain strong? Star Plus, which has been the leader in the GEC genre as per TAM ratings, has continuously been above the 700-mark since IPL began this year. The channel garnered 791 million, 743 million and 746 million TVTs in Weeks 16, 17 and 18, respectively of 2014. The closest channel in the genre in Weeks 18 and 17, Zee TV, was at 409 million and 445 million TVTs, respectively.
The viewership as per marketers and media planners is consistent because of the change in the programming strategy of the channel as the popular weekday slot was extended to the weekend slot. This has ensured that the loyal audience of the channel continue to be hooked on. Apart from this, the sampling paradigms have also changed according to some people. Anisha Motwani, CMO, Max Life Insurance felt, “The viewership of IPL has been random this time, which means that as far as GECs are concerned, people watch them regularly and sample IPL matches in between during prime time. Consistent and steady viewership in our TG has gone down by 10 per cent and in the overall audience by 20 per cent.”
On the aspect of GEC viewership, Vyas of Set Max mentioned that IPL is anyways a male-dominated property and due to channels shifting their weekday slots to weekends GECs have not much been affected.