Benita Chacko

Rain continues to disrupt Asia Cup matches, raises concerns for cricket broadcaster and advertisers

This was the second crucial India-Pakistan match to be disrupted by rain, after a similar occurrence on September 2.

After a washout on Sunday and multiple delays on Monday, the skies finally cleared in Colombo, allowing India to beat Pakistan by 228 runs in the Super 4 match. This marked the second crucial India-Pakistan match to be disrupted by rain, with a similar occurrence on September 2. The encounter had been highly anticipated as it represented the two nations' first ODI clash in four years, and with a weekend schedule, it was expected to draw a massive viewership.

Several other significant cricket matches in 2023 have also suffered weather-related setbacks. The Indian Premier League's (IPL) final match between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans faced a similar fate in May, initially scheduled for a Sunday evening, eventually concluded around 1:30 AM on Tuesday. In July, the fifth day of the India-West Indies Series was washed out resulting in a draw.

These disruptions not only dampen the enthusiasm of cricket fans but also represent lost opportunities for advertisers to reach a massive audience. An India-Pakistan match, particularly when they were playing an ODI after four years, was anticipated to be a massive crowd-puller. Monday's match set a record for Disney+ Hotstar with a peak concurrent viewership of 2.8 crores, according to media reports. However, it was expected to garner even higher viewership had it occurred on its original Sunday schedule.

Krishnarao Buddha, senior category head, Parle Products, says it is not a monetary loss for the advertisers as they are billed solely for aired advertisements. In the case of digital streaming, the deal is based on cost per mille (CPM) and the advertisers are charged only for impressions.  

Nevertheless, these weather-induced disruptions pose a more substantial challenge for broadcasters. Each time a match is delayed or suspended due to rain, the broadcaster loses out on ad revenue during that period. Furthermore, while the live match is suspended, the broadcaster must fill the airtime with content such as highlights and chat shows, which do not generate advertising revenue.

"Sport broadcast is all about live, so if it is not live it is of no value to advertisers," emphasises Jigar Rambhia, COO, Sporjo.

Star India (now Disney Star) acquired the media rights for the Asia Cup in December 2015 for the 2016-23 rights cycle, estimated to be worth $90-$100 million, from the Asian Cricket Council (ACC).

Rambhia says that broadcasters generally insure themselves against such washouts. "As long as they have got insurance, the loss is covered," he explains.

In the case of the Asia Cup, Disney+ Hotstar is also streaming the tournament for free on mobile or handheld devices, with advertising serving as the platform’s primary source of revenue.

The unpredictable weather has been causing havoc throughout the Sri Lanka leg of the tournament and further showers are forecasted for Colombo in the coming days.

The next eagerly anticipated tournament is the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, starting on October 5. With rain-related washouts becoming a recurrent issue, are advertisers raising concerns with broadcasters?

Buddha acknowledges that the frequency of these disruptions may lead to concerns, but since they are beyond human control, they remain relatively insignificant.

"These concerns will surely be raised, especially because of the frequency of such incidents. However, it is not going to be the focus of our deals as it is a very small percentage. Ultimately, as an advertiser, I am looking at a larger picture. These are still, trivial and smaller matters as far as the sport is concerned," he explains.

Lead image: ANI

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