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IPL's reach growing, despite decrease in time spent: MEC

"People don't revise their schedules for IPL anymore," says T Gangadhar, MD, MEC India.

MEC, the media agency from GroupM, has predicted that the viewership numbers for IPL Season 6 will grow by 2.6 per cent over 2012. It is expected to garner an average of 3.9 TVRs. The study has been carried out in association with Meritus, WPP's analytics company.

IPL's reach growing, despite decrease in time spent: MEC
Interestingly, out of the estimations made by the agency in the last four seasons of IPL (starting with IPL Season 2), two of the predictions have proved to be correct to the T in the actual ratings. However, in Season 2 and Season 4, the estimation fell short, as compared to the actual average viewership garnered by the tournament (see chart).

T Gangadhar, managing director, MEC India, explains that viewership is a function of many factors. The quality of the matches is the biggest factor - the higher the score and the closer the matches, the better it is for the league. The time of the day is another crucial factor since people no longer seem to be revising their schedules to accommodate the games (unlike in IPL Season 1). The IPL Fantasy League has the potential to lift viewership as well.

As for the upcoming season (IPL Season 6) of the tournament, when asked about the team that the respondents will support, 23 per cent mentioned Mumbai Indians, followed by Chennai Superkings with 19 per cent, while Kolkata Knightriders will be the third most popular team in the upcoming season. The support for Royal Challengers Bangalore has fallen to 8 per cent.

Interestingly, as per the IPL TV Rating Estimation Study, Hyderabad's popularity has gone up by 200 per cent from 2 per cent to 6 per cent over the last year. However, the decision of the people to watch a match will be a combination of the home team and favourite team. Indian stars and the time of the match are also the deciding factors.

The popular Indian players in the league this year will be Sachin Tendulkar, followed by MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag. Among the international cricketers playing in the league, Chris Gayle, Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and Kevin Pietersen are the most popular.

IPL's reach growing, despite decrease in time spent: MEC
IPL's reach growing, despite decrease in time spent: MEC
A lot of discussions are already raging in the market about how IPL has been cannibalising on other genres in the Indian TV market. The impact, though, is apparently decreasing. Gangadhar suggests that owing to the nature of the market in India, which comprises mainly of single TV households, IPL definitely affects other genres, the most affected being news, English entertainment and infotainment.

The MEC study clearly establishes that ratings in the first phase (first 18 games) impact the fate of the entire league. With Pepsi activating its title sponsorship in a big way, the BCCI launching the IPL Fantasy League and India's strong performance against Australia, the first stage of the league could get further momentum.

"We expect the IPL Fantasy League to become a key part of the live broadcast experience and as a result, social chatter around IPL could grow significantly," Gangadhar adds.

While Hindi GECs shied away from show launches in March and April (during IPL season) earlier, there are close to four launches in the genre this year. Gangadhar comments, "The GECs recognise that viewers have become more adept when it comes to juggling programme choices. This is reflected in the fact that while IPL's reach has gone up over the seasons, time spent has come down."

The research was conducted across 10 cities including Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Pune, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. The sample size included close to 1,000 respondents.

Sunder Muthuraman, managing partner, Meritus Analytics, also believes that brand IPL now reflects the behaviour of a typical mature consumer product. The study states that there are two segments of audience; the loyalists, who will watch more than last year and the rejecters, who will watch less.

"Given that the former segment is larger than the latter, the ratings are likely to be marginally higher than in 2012," he concludes.

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