Benita Chacko

Did the rains wash out advertisers' money on IPL final match?

Industry experts debate the impact of the match's delay.

The final match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was a treat for the viewers. A tough match between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Gujarat Titans (GT) came to a close with Ravindra Jadeja hitting a boundary and leading the team to its fifth victory. Fans witnessed a poignant moment at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad as an emotionally overwhelmed MS Dhoni celebrated his team's victory and hugged Jadeja.

But the viewers had to wait for a really long time to witness this iconic victory. The match, which was scheduled on Sunday evening, eventually concluded around 1.30 am on Tuesday morning. According to media reports, this is the first time in IPL history that a final has been moved to a reserve day.

The match was initially postponed to Monday evening after torrential rains in Ahmedabad didn't allow the match to begin. However, on Monday, just when CSK began to bat, rains once again disrupted the play. After almost a three-hour disruption, the match resumed on Tuesday morning at 12.10. While GT had scored 214/4 in 20 overs, due to the paucity of time, CSK's target was adjusted for 15 overs.

The uncertainty over the final match's schedule was a cause for concern among advertisers, who have pumped huge money into the IPL. From a viewership perspective, Sunday evening was an ideal time for the IPL final match. However, Monday being a weekday, many people must be at their workplaces and may not have been able to enjoy the match. With the match being further delayed into the night, many may have been asleep by the time the match resumed. Moreover, many people enjoy these matches in pubs, cafes, malls, and other public places. These would also have shut in the late hours.

According to industry sources, the rate for a 10-second ad on television for the final match ranged between Rs 16 to Rs 20 lacs, as compared to Rs 12 to Rs 18 lacs for the regular matches.

However, for most brands, the deal is not for a particular match but a package for a set of matches.

While the television viewership data is not available yet, the viewership can be gauged through digital streaming data. JioCinema had 3.2 crore viewers at around 9.30 pm. This dipped to around 1 crore once the match was disrupted. Once the match resumed at 12.10, the numbers again rose to upwards of 2 crore but could not reach the 3 crore mark.

Did the rains wash out advertisers' money on IPL final match?

Shashank Srivastava, senior executive officer, marketing & sales, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, believes that the shift from Sunday to Monday would have brought a 20% decline in viewership.

"The weekend viewership, on average, has been 19% higher than weekday games (seen during the first 27 matches). Hence, there may have been a similar drop. The GEC loyal audience also kicks in during the weekdays. So overall viewership may have reduced on TV," he says.

Having said that, he also believes that a reduced-over game on Sunday would have had lesser viewership. "It could have been one-sided due to the wet conditions and hence overall viewership for the entire game could have been less," he says.

Krishnarao Buddha, senior category head, Parle Products, also estimates a 20% decline in viewership.

Did the rains wash out advertisers' money on IPL final match?

"A huge viewership was expected for the grand finale and that was definitely a letdown. Since the match went on quite late in the night, only the diehard fans would have stayed up to watch it. The regular viewers, who would have watched it in the evening, will just wait to check the results in the morning," he says.

However, Ashish Bhasin, founder, The Bhasin Consulting Group, and cofounder, RD&X Network, believes that the delay has not had a substantial negative impact on the viewership. On the other hand, he points out, the engagement levels were very high as it was a closely fought IPL final match.

"There were around 2.4 crore people watching the match on JioCinema even in the middle of the night. That's a good number. So I don't think it has had a significant negative impact for the advertisers, except that it was spread over a long time," he said.

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Pradnya Popade, head - marketing communications, at Samsonite South Asia, says the brand's advertising did not get massively impacted due to the delay. The brand is advertising on both television and OTT and also on connected TVs. While the television data is not out yet, the digital streaming cost is based on the reach and the brand will pay according to the reach. Meanwhile, the brand got lucky with its CTV strategy, as its spots played before the rain disrupted the match.

Sidharth Singh, cofounder, CupShup, an integrated marketing solution provider, says more than the numbers, the concern is the attention level.

Did the rains wash out advertisers' money on IPL final match?

"2.7 crore people tuned in to watch IPL final at its peak. So while the rains were able to dampen the pitch for some time, numbers-wise advertisers were closer to what they asked for. But it isn't just about the numbers. It is also about their attention level. The audience watching the match at 1 am will certainly not be interested in anything other than catching a glimpse of Thala. Secondly, the gender too must have been skewed. The women and boomers who would have watched the final at its usual time might have given a miss due to delayed telecast," he says.

Rao believes that the delay could have helped JioCinema gain more viewers as compared to Star Sports. "Considering that the match was played on a Monday, a lot of people would not have reached home in time. There could be a possibility that those viewers watched it online," he says.

In the case of viewership decline, how does the media platform compensate? The advertisers are yet to have a discussion with Star Sports and JioCinema in this regard.

However, Rao says there is no arrangement for compensation. "We will talk to them about it. Compensation could be in terms of reduced pricing or it could be by giving some value additions in the next sporting event."

Did the rains wash out advertisers' money on IPL final match?

Bhasin says most advertisers are buying spots as part of a deal and not individually.

"So it doesn't matter if there's a dip for one match. Moreover, the relationship tends to be long-term, as the brands are advertising with the same channel year after year. So if something has not worked out then they discuss with the channel and get some extra inventory in some other program," Bhasin said.

Popade says these are situations beyond anyone's control and need to be seen through a different lens. "The opening match had 22% more viewership. But the broadcaster didn't charge more for the increased viewership. The similar logic applies to a decline in viewership," she says.

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