More than halfway through the fifth season of the Indian Premier League and there’s just one question that constantly comes to my mind. How desperate are the tournament’s broadcaster as well as its commercial rights holders, the BCCI?
Why would they be desperate in the first place you ask. Surely the tournament is grabbing plenty of eyeballs after flooding the sports sections of newspapers and TV channels with its in-your-face daily dosage of instant cricket?
Well, it isn’t, and that’s exactly why the tournaments string pullers are getting really desperate. Hence the reason you see the IPL’s chairman Rajiv Shukla being ‘interviewed’ by the cacophonous anchors who double up as sideline reporters where Shukla delivers the message that the BCCI want him to deliver. The message being that everyone is tuned into the tournament and all is hunky dory.
Well the facts don’t exactly back up this message. Data gathered by TAM Sports, a market research company, shows that the average television ratings for the first 16 matches of this year’s IPL season has decreased in comparison to the same period from previous editions. The average television rating (TVR) is a figure that accounts for the time spent by a viewer on the broadcast of the match.
This rating has, in fact, been dropping since the first edition of the tournament in 2008. From an average TVR of 5.08 for the first 16 matches of 2008, the figure has come down to 3.65 for 2012. In addition the total number of unique individuals who watch the broadcast of a match for at least a minute has dropped by almost 40 lakh since last year.
There are other indicators of the tournaments flagging popularity too. For instance, on April 22 the match between the Mumbai Indians and the Kings XI Punjab was broadcast at the same time as the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton and the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. In the top ten list of trending topics on Twitter in India during the broadcast, F1 trended higher than IPL and the EPL match wasn’t far behind.
No stone is being left unturned by the broadcasting channel SET Max to grab those eyeballs that seem to be turning in other directions. How else do you explain Samir Kochar organizing an impromptu ‘dance-off’ between the cheerleaders of the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders?
How else do you explain cheerleaders being present in the studio with the anchors and being prompted to dance even before highlight packages for five seconds?
And how do you explain me being so well versed on the IPL’s attempts to boost its TV ratings? Well because I form a small percentage of non-cricket sports reporters in India who have to suffer the cricket and IPL barrage as far too many pages, resources and manpower is assigned to covering what is essentially a party for handsomely paid cricketers.
To see so much of the media’s resources being assigned to the IPL during an Olympic year (not to mention Euro 2012) also rankles.
I won’t get into what the possible solution for the IPL’s troubles are because; a) I couldn’t care less about cricket and b) it’s the subject of an entirely different column. For now I will try, probably in vain, to stick my head in the sand until the tournament blows over.
By Vinayak Pande