Sapna Nair

Late-night cricket – Are there enough viewers?

Sony Entertainment Television is bracing itself for the opening day of the ICC World Cup 2007. With both the channel and advertisers having bet huge monies on the series, agencyfaqs! analyses what the coming weeks could spell for the television industry

The fever that comes around every four years is here again. The cricket blockbuster, ICC World Cup, is just one day away from its opening, and its official broadcaster in India, SET (Sony Entertainment Television) Max, has left no stone unturned in glorifying and marketing this huge property.

For one, SET claims that the matches of this ICC World Cup will deliver much better TVRs than the 2003 ICC World Cup. Rohit Gupta, executive vice-president, SET India, provides the rationale for the claim: “C&S homes currently stand at 70 million, as compared to only 32 million in the last World Cup. So, in the expanded universe, we hope that the matches will deliver much better viewership than four years ago.”

SET has managed to increase the number of advertisers from 40 in the 2003 World Cup to 65 this year. The network is looking forward to doubling its revenues this year over the last World Cup.

Late-night cricket – Are there enough viewers?
This year, the ICC World Cup matches are to be held in the Caribbean Islands, which implies that the telecast of matches will start at 7pm in India and could go on till 3am. The good news here is that since the matches will start at 7pm, the first half will cover Indian television prime time, 8-11 pm. Thus, viewership will be high in the first half because working people, especially male viewers who contribute a major share of cricket viewership, would have reached home by then.

On the flip side, though, since the matches will in all probability go on till 3am, it could lead to a decline in viewership. Obviously, in any cricket match, the excitement builds up towards the end, especially if India is winning or batting. So, the odd timings could disrupt the viewership pattern at a time when SET should have gained the most. In the 2003 World Cup, the matches were played between 12 noon and 10pm – the timings were appropriate for the channel to derive maximum viewership.

Kajal Malik, regional director, Optimum Media Solutions, is of the opinion that in such a scenario, the viewership may start declining after 12.30am, especially on weekdays.

“But then, if the match has an interesting climax, there are chances that the matches will retain viewership among males and the youth. And, if the matches are played during weekends, or with the one of the ‘A’ teams of the ICC World Cup, the effect on the viewership would be minimal,” adds Malik.

“A similar trend can be observed during an awards night, when the viewership is on a decline after 12.30am, if the telecast goes on till late night,” she says.

As per OMS Score, an ODI cricket ratings prediction estimator, the difference in viewership between an India vs an ‘A’ team match and an India vs a ‘B’ team match would be 25 per cent. (Here, ‘A’ team refers to Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Indies, England and South Africa, while ‘B’ team refers to Scotland, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Kenya, Canada, Zimbabwe and Ireland.)

OMS Score is based on the analysis of TAM ratings over the last four years, including the last World Cup. It takes into account parameters such as whether India is playing, where the match is being played, the quality of the opposition, etc.

Similarly, the tool predicts that between a weekend and a weekday match, the attrition in viewership could be 14-15 per cent.

Late-night cricket – Are there enough viewers?
Divya Radhakrishnan, vice-president, The Media Edge, offers an interesting observation. “Most of the key matches are on weekends and, during the weekends, the GECs (general entertainment channels) generally do not have a strong programming line-up.”

If the match schedule as provided by SET Max is to be considered, out of the seven matches India will play against an ‘A’ team, five will be played on weekends, Friday to Sunday.

The viewership of the matches could also be affected by the general entertainment channels (GEC), or vice versa, where the GEC viewership could see a decline due to clash in timings.

As close watchers of the media predict, the effect is going to be more on the GECs rather than on the cricket matches. Despite the fact that India has single TV homes mostly, this is one time when the men in the house will get to monopolise the remote.

According to Nandini Dias, vice-president, Lodestar Universal, the tremors of the ICC World Cup will be felt not just by the GECs, but also the other channels. “I think, overall, there will be a loss of about 25 per cent viewership due to the matches,” she predicts.

“Don’t be surprised if Max and SAB command the top two positions in terms of channel share,” she concludes.

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© 2007 agencyfaqs!

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