Online viewership of sporting events such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) is reaching a critical point, where digital as a platform has become an area to watch out for. MEC IPL TV Rating Prediction study forecasted that over the next few years, online viewership is expected to grow and overall viewership would be split between online and television. This phenomenon will eventually lead to a drop in television ratings.
The study pointed out that in IPL Season 4, the series enjoyed a 38 per cent online reach. T Gangadhar, MD, MEC India explained, “To be accurate, 38 per cent of the respondents claimed they had watched a part of IPL online last year. It means that the live streaming of the league is a great platform for advertisers. The internet is a medium that is actively sought-out and consumed (unlike TV), so it becomes an even more effective platform. I am a firm believer of being ahead of the curve and this is a great opportunity for advertisers to do that instead of taking a ‘let’s-wait-till-the-internet-reaches-a-critical-mass’ approach.”
Gangadhar explained that despite both platforms showing the event live, TV and the internet can co-exist successfully. Each will play to its strength – the big screen, HD experience and community viewing (for TV) and convenience, mobility and interactivity (for the internet).
While a third of internet users claimed to have watched IPL on YouTube, about eight per cent watched it on Indiatimes. MEC suggested that brands looking at associating with IPL on YouTube can expect similar reach in IPL Season 5 too.
Growing online viewing at home too
MEC IPL TV Rating Prediction study stated that the reason for watching IPL online was not always because the viewer was out of home. For a sizeable audience of 22 per cent, online was replacing television at home, where the TV was being used by someone else at home. Gangadhar observed, “While our study shows that 22 per cent of the respondents watched IPL online at home last year, it does not spell doom for TV. As that number grows, it may impact TV ratings but one must not forget a huge advantage TV currently enjoys – screen size and community viewing.”
The power of the latter is not to be underestimated. TV broadcasting has the power to create a sense of occasion. A case in point is the Super Bowl. Even in a mature market like the US, 113 million watched the February 2012 event on TV while 2.1 watched it online. As I mentioned earlier, both media can co-exist because of their inherent strengths.”
One of the most interesting points that has come to fore from the study is that over a third of those who are on social networking sites are fans of IPL teams’ brand pages. A healthy 37 per cent comment on IPL teams’ brand pages and around 21 per cent engage further by uploading pictures on these pages.
IPL franchisees are building fan bases on social networking sites. All teams have a social media presence with varying degrees of engagement. A lot of it seems to be around contests and disseminating information about the Indian cricket team. The aim is obvious – build and maintain fan loyalty through the year. Gangadhar explained, “In my view, this is necessary but not sufficient condition. It’s best to build loyalty on the ground through local engagement (schools, community, local social cause, etc). The social media element can then be added to give this engagement wings. One way to do this would be by having an annual school-level version of IPL with junior versions of the nine IPL teams competing against each other. This will be a fantastic way to build loyalty for each of the teams.”