Why the BCCI is banking on TV ratings for IPL

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That cricket is more than just a sport in India is well-known. Overs the years, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been perceived as more of an entertainment package than just a sporting event, becoming the most important TV entity of the year. So much so those other significant events and film releases are shuffled around the IPL schedule.

In terms of numbers, the IPL TV ratings have seen incessant growth, gaining 41 per cent in viewership in 2019.

The study of the way TV audiences behave has become more important by the day. No surprise as it is viewership numbers that determine how advertisers invest their money – on what programs and on which TV channels.

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With less than a fortnight to go for the 13th season of the IPL, BCCI President Sourav Ganguly feels this year TV ratings will shatter previous records as most fans will consume the content at home.

Crowds will watch it on television…they (the broadcasters) are actually expecting the highest rating of IPL this season because they believe if (people) don’t turn up in the ground, they will be actually watching on their television sets,” Ganguly observed about the ratings.

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The former India captain also said holding the IPL was important to ensure a sense of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused disruption in every aspect of daily life. Asked how cricketers would feel about playing in front of empty stands, Ganguly said, “…because of the COVID and infection, you don’t want people to be too close to each other, but very soon you will see there will be 30 per cent people in the ground with social distancing.”

IPL trophy

IPL and TV rights

The IPL offers a well-worn package of celebrity and entertainment to the viewers. Not just the quality of cricket is breath-taking, the audience are hooked to it through an endless loop of nonstop entertainment. It works like a treat. Most importantly, the notoriously fickle millennials are glued to their TV sets and cricket felt unusually cool.

Twelve seasons on, the IPL’s appeal shows no signs of abating. The current edition had been a rating gold mine. An eye-watering total of 411 million viewers have watched the six weeks of the tournament, revealed the IPL’s official broadcast partner Star India.

In World Cup 2019, the viewership figures further jumped to 509 million viewers i.e. home and out of home combined. It was the most-watched ICC tournament ever.

Don’t be surprised if the IPL 2020 viewership figures considerably improve upon both the IPL 2019 and ICC World Cup 2019’s figures, and if the tournament becomes the most-watched in the history of the game.

For those fed and fattened on the constant dosage of cricket are starved of live-action since the pandemic has hit. They would be glued to their television screens once IPL 2020 starts, like never before.

In an event of the scale of IPL, one has to spend around 30 crores just to achieve a minimum threshold presence, and not many advertisers are currently in the position to spend that kind of money. However, the online firms across categories such as e-commerce, online gaming and video-on-demand services amongst others could come up as the only saving grace.

But considering Facebook’s bid of a mammoth $610 million for IPL rights to stream cricket should have alarm bells ringing. The way people consume entertainment is indeed changing fast.

TV ratings and finances

The BCCI stood to lose out on around 400 crores in revenue, had IPL been given a miss this year. As things stand, the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to postpone the T20 World Cup for a year, thus giving IPL a two-month window.

There were many raising questions that is IPL more important than the World T20?

According to reports, the ICC gets close to 80 per cent of its revenues from the Indian market, hence giving BCCI a massive bargaining power in ICC politics.

Simply put, if BCCI is losing money by not hosting IPL, ICC is also potentially losing money.
And money here for sure equates to power as BCCI and the decision they make will have an impact on how ICC decides on the World T20. One has to assume that the viewership per match from India alone for an IPL match could rival that of a World T20 match where two lesser teams are playing.

Likewise, the number of games played in IPL is much higher than the number of games played in the World T20.

Despite being enveloped in a scandal or two, the IPL is the most successful cricket league globally, and a brand worth being associated with. Corporate sponsorship drives one of the largest parts of its income. The big lure for the big multinationals is viewership for the league plays a huge role in the success in advertising and driving consumer sales.

Furthermore, this season of IPL coincides with the festive season in India – something companies want to leverage.

It all augurs well for the viewership for the upcoming season, which promises to yet again catch the imagination of the cricket frenzy country!

The wagers for the upcoming IPL matches can be placed here.

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