The ratings for the first three one-day internationals of the recently concluded Pepsi Cup are here and the numbers so far, fail to impress the media fraternity. In addition, India's performance in the last two matches hasn't been up to the mark either. While some experts don't have much hope for these matches' numbers, the others have their fingers crossed.
The rates and ratings reality
The matches were a simulcast on DD 1 and DD Sports. Since both channels were sold separately, the advertiser feed on the channels was different too. Consequently, for sponsors, on-screen advertisers and advertisers present on both channels, the numbers of the two channels put together make sense. For the one's present on only one channel, DD Sports, which was more expensive, delivered better numbers.
At an average, for an advertiser to be present on both channels, the sum to be coughed up was in the region of Rs 5.5 lakh.
Looking at the TAM Media Research's data now, for the C&S4+ in the all India market, the first day (April 2, 2005) delivered a TRP of 4.59 for DD Sports and 3.59 for DD 1. The second match gave DD Sports 5.2 and DD 1, 4.52 and the third match on April 9, 2005 was 4.79 on DD Sports and 3.6 on DD 1. The cumulative totals would be 8.18, 9.72 and 8.39 for the three matches.
If the male TG (C&S AB 25+ M) was seen, the numbers increase giving a total count of both channels as 9.93 on the first day, 11.74 for the second match and 10.11 for the third one.
What is worth noticing here is also the fact that the matches have not eaten into mass entertainment channels at all. Star Plus, being the leader would have seen loss on this count. However, if the channel share for the week is seen, STAR viewers have not abandoned the channel at all.
In regards to cricket ratings, the reactions that experts like Harish Shriyan, President, MediaCom and Manish Porwal, GM, Starcom, offer are similar, "These numbers are below expectations."
Explaining this further, Shriyan said, "For the advertiser, it really wouldn't be called a valuable proposition given the rate at which it was charged. If a player was present on only one of the channels, the rating is low and if the player was present on both channels, they have paid a huge amount for it. From both angles, it is an expensive deal."
If we trace cricket's rating history a little, the deal is steadily getting more expensive. Taking the Indo-Pak example, which generally throws the highest numbers, the matches in 2003 gave as high as 20 and 21 on Max. Going forward in 2004, the prices went up but the ratings came down to 11 to 16 range and now it down to 8 to 10.
"This was bound to happen," said Porwal, "In two years the teams have faced each other thrice. Also, the fate of the rating game is also completely dependent on the performance of the Indian team. No one wants to see their heroes beaten."
Cricket's still the game and going forward…
Despite all, people still invest in cricket and from the looks of it, they will continue to. If the property is getting cost 'ineffective', why do advertisers continue to put their money in the game? "Because it still gives you the difficult male TG in a good way and it is still a great way for quick reach," replied Porwal.
He explained that it is the format of the game, which gives huge involvement levels that, is still working in its favour. Shriyan added, "An Indo-Pak match is still expected to be priced the highest and you can never predict how good or bad we play."
According to experts advertisers are not going to look away from the game. Especially advertisers who have a new campaign breaking, a new copy or communication message to introduce, have threshold money and factors like seasonality or quintessentially targeting the male TG will continue to embrace cricket. Consequently, automobiles, telecom, financial services and the likes will still chase the game.
To give an advertisers' point of view, Kotak Mahindra's Marketing Head, Shashi Arora, said, "We are satisfied with the numbers. Even for the last two matches, at least for the initial stage, the ratings have to be good. Also, we really have been the fringe players. We haven't put any big monies in the game. It would be an issue if we would have spent any more than what we did."
Pepsi India did not comment on the story.
As Porwal put it, the popularity of the game has out-priced itself and going forward, that is where experts like Shriyan see the change coming in. The game will cease to be as expensive as it is today, if the TRPs fall as they are falling and if the Indian team plays as it is playing. But it has always been the unpredictable nature of the game that has every one hooked - from audience to advertiser.