The cricket debate is as old as the debate on daily soaps. Every statement on the death of either is only met with a swift reply of deliveries in terms of ratings. Looking at cricket closely, the property like any other television property has seen a drop in ratings, but continues to be among the top sought-after properties on television – a recent example being the Hutch Cup on Ten Sports.
TAM Media Research shows that for the C&S 15+ in the all India market, the Hutch Cup has given Ten Sports some high numbers. The first ODI has delivered a 5.6 on Ten Sports and the simulcast on DD 1 has a rating of 2. The second ODI is 6 on Ten Sports and DD 1 has grossed 2. The third ODI is again 6 on Ten and 2 on DD, the fourth Odi is 7 and 2 on Ten Sports and DD, respectively, while the final ODI is 7 and 3 on Ten Sports and DD 1, respectively.
In the male TG, the numbers are even higher. To give cumulative figures of both channels (given that DD1 carried the exact feed of Ten Sports, down to the logos on the screen) at 9.6 for the first ODI, 11.16 for the second, 10.32 for the third, 11 for the fourth and 12.12 for the fifth ODI.
For media experts, these are good numbers and could have been better. Stating this, S Yesudas, COO, Media Direction, was quick to add, “Certainly the numbers are not comparable to historical evidence on this sporting event. But, in comparison to the current trends, it doesn’t seem like a big question mark.”
“These are very good numbers,” said Nandini Dias, Vice-President, Lodestar Media. “They are actually better than some of the cricket numbers we have seen recently. For the male target, the channels delivering an aggregate of 10 and 11 are excellent numbers,” she pointed out.
A little on the cautious side, Anupriya Acharya, President, The Media Edge, said, “The numbers aren’t phenomenally high as is normally expected from any India-Pakistan match, but definitely better than average India series.”
While Dias thought that the hype that was created around the series and the fact that the Indian team was performing well had led to the kind of numbers that were seen. She was also clear that cricket on the whole had seen a dip in ratings. Acharya and Yesudas, too, agreed on this.
Giving some reasons, Acharya said, “A lot in cricket in general and India-Pak in specific has to do with performance and the public mood that time. Considering that India had lost the Test matches just before this and also lost the first ODI, the mood was sombre.”
Yesudas believed, “There is a lot of cricket, players are overexposed selling products from toothpaste to cars, inconsistent performance on field, inferences from in-fight and politics within team by news hungry media, TV channels trying with various new formats to grab consumers’ attention (with some success), and easy access to score updates are some of the reasons for the possible decline in interest.”
So with all this dip, is cricket on its way down? “Not at all,” asserted Dias. “Every time we pass a fleeting remark that cricket is on its way down, it bounces back with great gusto. It has its highs and lows, but I don’t think cricket will go out of fashion,” she further said.
Yesudas seconded that. “Despite the fall, cricket continues to be the single media opportunity with the potential to make an impact across the width and breadth of the country and like our team, it also has the ability to surprise us with numbers,” he said.
Yesudas further said, “Cricket also delivers captive audience, compared to the quality of viewing issues that come as a package with programmes with longer commercial breaks.” Echoing this, Acharya said, “All said and done, it is still one of the few properties that gives you an option of hours and hours of higher than average viewership programming option. Combine it with the fact that with increased fragmentation there is a pressure on decent inventory options anyways. So, definitely while it does not deliver as it used to earlier I won’t say it is becoming a non-option.”
“Also, the attentiveness factor is high as compared to a lot of other programmes and depending on the match the drop in ad ratings is almost insignificant. Additionally, all properties, including cricket, need to be looked at in relation to the communication objective. For a lot of brands it gives your brand/communication a good platform. Cricket is actually core to a lot of brands communication strategy still. Just look around and see how many cricket stars are coming in ads,” she elaborated.
Will cricket continue to charge a premium? “One thing is certain, if it has to make commercial sense for broadcasters, the pricing cannot be any different going by the rates at which bids are won currently. To some marketers it will mean cricket at any cost and to others it will be an opportunistic investment option,” replied Yesudas.
According to Acharya, “Currently, it is more driven by what price was the property picked up at and less by what it will deliver. However, the reality is that the ratings definitely have dropped due to a whole lot of cricket happening as well as fragmentation. And slowly and gradually it may very well become a regular programming option. Already brands, which are not on cricket, have to draw a non-cricket calendar to avoid cricket days. So, as it goes closer to becoming a regular programming option, the tougher it becomes to command a premium. Within cricket, too, there is so much fragmentation. So, if you are not on one series you can always be on the next one. This will further help in getting the premium down.”
“For at least the next two-three years, it would be. People are getting used to and liking other kinds of sports, so I think the options in that area are going to increase. But for the next few years, people are pretty much going to pay the premium,” observed Dias.