My unusually busy Sunday ended with a frantic call from a channel saying that they needed to discuss something ‘urgent’. Journalist or not, one always wants to know more once that word is used. The ‘urgent’ turned out to be data on how unlike what people think, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is not as big when compared to Hindi general entertainment channels. I requested for the data to be sent.
The matter became interesting when nearly an hour later I received another call from an industry friend, who enquired whether we had received any such data. That confirmed one part – channels were floating this data to various news organisations, probably hoping that someone would publish how GECs are bigger and better than IPL. After some probing around, we understand that the data was also sent to some general newspapers and financial dailies, and even more interestingly, not from the same channel that sent the data to us. A show of solidarity from Hindi GECs, given its rarity, always tends to get people talking.
One such earlier occasion was when the Hindi GECs were fighting production houses and workers over cost issues. The broadcasters had won at that time. The cumulative opponent now is IPL.
Ever since it became a part of television in India, IPL has never stopped giving sleepless nights to other genres, especially the Hindi general entertainment genre. The Hindi GE genre continues to get a significant share of the viewer and the advertiser pie in comparison to other genres on television, but for three years now, IPL has managed to eat into that pie.
It is no secret that IPL has always played a great perception game, the press has supported it over the years and everything about the IPL has been reported in great length... well, at least it was until IPL laid down some strict coverage rules this year and news organisations didn’t appreciate that much. What channels are out to prove now is that IPL’s popularity is more perception than reality. The data has compared IPL with some of the top-rated shows on television like ‘Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai’, ‘Balika Vadhu’, ‘Bidaayi’ and ‘Pavitra Rishta’ to show how these shows have fared better than the IPL matches on counts like overall GRPs, cumulative reach and male viewership.
The numbers by themselves are not incorrect, but the manner of comparison – six weeks of IPL (in the last two years, and nine days for this year so far) against 52 weeks of the shows last year isn’t precisely fair comparison. In fact, there is no stopping from people to interpret that what these shows achieved in a year, IPL managed in six weeks. Behold dear reader, please understand that the comparison from either viewpoint is incorrect when six weeks of IPL is put against 52 weeks of these top-rated shows.
Well, we did end up discussing the data with one of the most important part of our constituency – media planners and buyers – and while they wanted to spend some time with the data before making a comment, they had some observations of their own... Of late, there is no one Hindi GEC show that has stayed on top, the top slot has shifted between a set of shows. Similarly, the top position has not stayed with one channel – that has shifted between two channels with barely any distance from the third channel. Despite the IPL, in the last two weeks, top Hindi GECs are still giving their near-300 GRPs. If anything, all this is a sign that the once falling Hindi GEC has made a strong comeback in the last two years and has matured to the level that we see today.
Everything imaginable and unimaginable of the IPL has been sold this year. One still cannot be sure how YouTube has gained from the deal, and there are quite a few conversations on how the multiplex rights owners may not be as excited, given the response they have received so far. That said, IPL has brought in a new level of monetising a cricketing, or any television, property for that matter. Whether they can continue it year after year is still a wait and watch. Many advertisers also get on-board the IPL since it is a six-week bus, unlike GECs that stay through the year – it’s a chance that if one didn’t take, they missed the bus. In fact, the advantage of finite is seen even in the manner in which advertisers get on some properties like reality shows on television.
Anyone who is interested in the viewer’s attention and the advertiser’s monies should be worried about IPL, but if anything at all, Hindi GECs have managed to stay in a class of their own.