Does airing IPL on Star Plus bode well for the league's reach & channel's viewership?

Media experts discuss the network's decision to air the matches on the GEC during weekends; especially when there could be a dearth of fresh content in the coming days due to the lockdown

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Apr 22, 2021 8:58 AM

Disney-Star India, the official broadcaster of Vivo IPL 2021, who has been airing live matches across over its 17 channels has now added one more channel to the list. From April 18, the ongoing fourteenth edition of  VIVO IPL live matches has been airing on its leading GEC Star Plus.

To ensure Star Plus’ millions of viewers get access to ‘great cricketing action from IPL 2021’  Disney-Star India airs live matches on Sundays at the 7 pm time slot, as mentioned in its official statement. The first match on the Hindi GEC was Delhi Capitals versus Punjab Kings on April 18.

With Star Plus broadcasting IPL matches in a first on a Hindi GEC, media experts believe it will bode well for the viewership of the channel and the overall reach of IPL 2021.

They laud Star's strategy of airing the matches on Sundays as weekends have always been an experimental slot for GECs. “Broadcasters try new things on weekend slots, and if it works, nothing like it.  Weekly shows have a loyal viewership, and it is unlikely that people would miss their favourite shows. They are only trying to boost the viewership for the GEC on Sundays, which is a good slot for the experiment," said an industry observer on the condition of anonymity.

Moreover, with shoots on standstill due to the ban by the Maharashtra government, broadcasters were worried that they are likely to face the possibility of running reruns of old shows if their banks of episodes get over. Media experts believe this could be one of the factors shaping this decision. However, most of the broadcasters and production houses have shifted TV shoots to different cities now. 

The other possibility is, unlike other Hindi GECs that air non-fiction shows on Sunday, Star Plus was beaming re-runs of its weekly fiction shows. For instance,  Sony Entertainment Television currently airs two reality shows, ‘Super Dancer Chapter 4’ and ‘Indian Idol’ at 8 pm and 9.30 pm respectively. Similarly, Colors TV and Zee TV relay ‘Dance Deewane’ and  Indian Pro Music League respectively at 8 pm.

Elucidating the above point, a senior TV broadcasting executive on the condition of anonymity points out that with no non-fiction shows on its plate, Star Plus is televising IPL matches during weekends as it won't disturb their regular programming. He goes on to state that the decision wouldn’t bring in additional reach as its movie channel Star Gold does the job.

He explains, " Currently with no non-fiction shows on air (over the weekends), the channel's fiction shows run from Monday to Saturday. Also, GECs are facing a content crunch due to the ban on shoots by the Maharashtra government. If the ban is extended, Star Plus might air IPL matches on the weekends. However, airing IPL matches on Star Plus will not bring any incremental reach for the network as Star Gold is already offering enough reach," he added. 

Another senior media planner who wishes to remain anonymous hails it as a smart decision as it will help the network boost its viewership. He explains, "Currently, Star Plus' Sunday evening slots don't have any new programming. Hence it's a smart strategy to follow as IPL fever is just catching up, and Star is trying to encash this opportunity as the channel's popularity will add an incremental audience to the IPL."

However, when it comes to new episodes, the media planner remarks that with productions at standstill, one isn’t sure about the pipeline in terms of the bank of episodes. He adds, “Most of the production houses and broadcasters have already begun the shoots outside Mumbai. But, the uncertainty around TV shoots remains intact since other states are also under lockdown."

Given the reach of Star Plus and IPL, broadcasting matches on the channel will also help the network increase the cricket tournament's overall reach. According to the viewership data shared by the broadcasting network, Star India has clocked 323 million total impressions for the opening match of Vivo IPL 2021; however, it has failed to break the records of Dream11 IPL 2020.

The official statement said that the opening match between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore received a tremendous response, bigger than opening games of all other IPL editions held previously (except Dream11 IPL 2020). It was 42 per cent higher than the 2019 tournament.

"If you see the viewership data of IPL 14, 2021, it is not higher than the IPL 2020. With airing live matches every Sunday on Star Plus, the broadcaster is trying to increase the reach base, which is the major reason behind this decision," said another senior media planner.

As per the viewership data of BARC week 14 a of the Hindi GEC Urban market, Star Plus continues to lead.  Four out of five top programs (‘Anupamaa’, ‘Imli’, ‘Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai’ and ‘Ghum Hai Kisi Ke Pyaar Me’) in this segment are from the channel.  

Another senior analyst explained, "Currently, where productions are halted, even if it restarts after 15 days, there are guidelines that the producer has to follow, from testing the entire cast and crew to working with 50% of the team on the sets. It will negatively impact the non-fiction shows, which usually require huge sets and many people to work on the sets. Further delay on new launches in this category is possible as these shows are also high on pricing. Since those are on hold for now, televising of IPL matches will help the network to maintain their channel viewership mark and increase the IPL's reach through Star Plus."

The VIVO IPL is currently airing across 18 channels, including Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Hindi HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Kannada, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 HD and occasional on Star Sports 1 Bangla, Star Plus, Star Gold, Star Gold HD, Star Maa Movies, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Vijay Super, Jalsha and Asianet Plus.

(With Inputs from Javed Farooqui)

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