If cricket is ‘the’ game for viewers in India, it has been ‘the’ property for advertisers. The perception around the sport is larger than life. However, with the deliveries of the recent matches, select quarters of the media fraternity have started questioning the investment that goes in the property. If numbers of the India–Australia test matches are considered, it is wrong to say that the sport has stopped delivering. But is it still giving media efficiencies? We looked deep into the matter.
Let’s begin with the TAM Media Research numbers of India–Australia 2004 test series. If the matches are compared with the India–New Zealand test series in 2003, in terms of numbers alone, it is evident that the India–Australia series has been far ahead.
Where in the previous year, the test was aired only on DD Sports, this year it was aired on both DD1 and DD Sports. In 2004 for the target CS Male ABC 25+ in the all India market, Day 1 gave the channel a rating of 2.1, 3.23 (Day 2), 2.1 (Day 3), 2.88 (Day 4) and the final day delivered 3.95.
For the India Australia series, if the average ratings of the three test series are observed, for the given target, looking at the cumulative figures, Test 1 gives a rating of 3.6, Test 2 throws up 4.7 and Test 3 delivers 3.5.
However, where the cumulative can be accepted for viewership, due to the India–Australia series for both channels being sold separately, the same cannot be applied for inventories. Looking at inventories now, a full test match day can take about 6,700 seconds. Drawing a comparison again with last year, India versus New Zealand had an average of 6,432 seconds of inventories. This year this number has dropped to 4,634 seconds in the first test, indicating a 34 per cent plunge over peak inventories.
For the second test, this number rises to 5,647 seconds. A point to be noticed here is that DD had discounted rates and the match turned in India’s favour during the weekend. In the third test, this number further rises to 6,039 seconds. Again market sources indicate that the credit can be given to India’s good performance at Chennai.
However, the bottom-line says viewership is not disappointing but inventories have still gone down. Market sources indicate that inflation vis-à-vis last year is by over a 100 per cent. And, the general perception is that cricket has become too expensive.
“But it is still better than any mass reach option,” asserts GroupM’s Nitin Jain, “If you look at the cumulative numbers, the matches have delivered at par with last year, where is the drop?”
Rajiv Gopinath, Media Director, Madison, throws more light on the subject, “The ratings in CS audience have gone up 50 per cent over last year’s India–New Zealand tests. Surprisingly, DD 1 has delivered well in C&S HHs, which is an anomaly from past tournaments where DD 1 has been a washout in CS HHs when a simulcast happened.”
A point that Nikhil Rangnekar, Associate Media Director, Starcom, reiterates, “As far as numbers are concerned, the matches have delivered.”
Where the planners are optimistic on the ratings, from an advertiser’s point of view, the picture is different. With different advertisers on both the channels, media efficiencies are no more in the picture. “From an advertiser’s perspective, the tournament has not been that hot. With the splitting of CS audiences, the CPRP realised in CS HHs has been in excess of 16,000, which is higher than those realised in previous tourneys. For the advertisers running pan-India commercials, the CPT would still have been good,” shares Gopinath.
“In the present day, from the point of view of media efficiencies, the sport is not as efficient as it used to be but it, as I said, still compares with the best mass reach option,” says Jain.
He reminds that there is risk involved in the property but the benefits are also to that extent. “Cricket has been an expensive property traditionally,” echoes Rangnekar, “At least as far as the tests go, they are even efficient which may not be the case with the ODIs.”
Cricket does deliver numbers – whether in the current scenario of ebbing efficiencies, it continues to be the best delivery option is however, a debatable issue. Interestingly, these media experts share that advertisers are not vacating the property yet. For them, the sport is about phases – India will perform again, the rates will soar again and advertisers will be justified in paying high ad rates that cricket demands. Reaching the right audience, after all, is not an easy game.