The Indian Premier League (IPL), has seen a decline in viewership on the StarNSE -0.24 % Sports network, compared with the previous year, when the tourney was aired on Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) channels.
This is the first time that IPL is being aired on Star India’s channels after the broadcaster won the global media rights of the league for a jaw-dropping Rs 16,347.5 crore.
In a bid to penetrate deeper into the country, Star India had come out with an exhaustive coverage plan, encompassing 10 channels, six language feeds, and live streaming on Hotstar.
However, as per viewership data sourced from subscribers of BARC India, in the All India market (urban plus rural) for the audience of over 2 years, the total reach of the first eight matches of IPL (live telecast) this year has been at 245.71 million. It was 254.79 million matches the previous year.
Similarly, for the Hindi speaking markets (HSM), the reach this year has dropped by almost 19.5% to 143.53 million, compared with 178.33 million last year.
“The IPL 2018 live TV reach All India 2+ declined by approx 10 million viewers, and the decline in reach across HSM markets stands at 20% that translates to a loss of approx 35 million viewers. This is disappointing,” said Rajesh Kaul, president sports and distribution at Sony Pictures Networks India.
To its credit, Star India has seen significant increase in the South Indian markets, which can be attributed to the regional feed as well as return of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) after a gap of 2 years.
“If you take data for IPL on Star channels versus IPL on Sony channels, there is a clear decline in HSM. But that is also because Sony used to air IPL on Set Max, which being a Hindi movie channel, was mass distributed. Star Sports, on the other hand, has much lesser reach,” said a media planner, who did not wish to be identified.
While it’s just one week’s data, it will surely be a cause for concern because Star had assured advertisers of a much higher reach by delivering on languages and a never before multiple regional markets push. “It’s a bit early to say definitively, but it will put pressure on digital rates,” he added.
Meanwhile, in a release, Star India said that it has recorded a “historic opening” with 371 million viewers on television & Hotstar. Star said that the television viewership stood at 288.4 million viewers (BARC 2+ U+R), while Hotstar gave a reach of 82.4 million.
“We sought to re-imagine the way IPL was presented to fans and are delighted with how fans have responded across both TV and Hotstar,” Sanjay Gupta, MD, Star India said in the release. “… The consumption growth is a truly satisfying yardstick of unmatched fan delight and value for brands.
Even though it is early days, this has already become the most watched IPL ever on a tournament to date basis, and we hope to continue to engage fans powered by localisation and technology across TV and Hotstar.
Star India did not respond to ET’s query on the drop in all-India reach till press-time Thursday. The company shared that in the audience demographic of Males 15+ AB (Urban), IPL registered 273 million impressions with a 23% growth from a year ago. It also said that the total urban gross impressions were at 854 million, while 40% of the viewers were women.
On Hotstar’s viewership, another media buyer pointed out that Star has underestimated its digital player cannibalising into the TV pie. “Hotstar’s viewership is fashionably worthy of immediate PR but low on advertising revenues returns,” he said.
A marketing executive said that this year IPL did not create enough buzz, which could be the reason for the drop. “Thanda (cold) is one word that means poor even in the Indian summer, if it refers to the marketing buzz. Despite claims, the consensus view is that Sony caught the fan imagination much better with its spirited take on ‘India ka tyohaar’ or ’10 saal aapke naam’. There was no spice in the invite and hence no recruitment of new viewers.”
Meanwhile, BARC India has shared the viewership data counting all the Star channels (Star Sports 1 (SD+HD), Star Sports 1 Hindi (SD+HD), Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports Select 1 (SD+ HD), Star Suvarna Plus, Star Maa Movies, Star Jalsha) and that of DD Sports, on which one match was aired with one hour delay.
Including viewership of DD Sports, a free-to-air (FTA) channel, total viewership for the first 8 matches was at 213.9 million impressions at an all-India level, and 125.1 million impressions in urban markets.
Last year, on Sony channels (Sony Max, Sony Six (SD+HD), and Sony ESPN SD and HD), the total viewership for the first 8 matches was at 197.8 million impressions.