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If you really wish to understand the enormity and impact of the IPL juggernaut, then you really need to savour and digest some of the statistics below on television and digital engagement of the League...

-There has been unparalleled viewership growth since IPL moved to the Star TV Network from Sony who were the broadcasters for the first 10 years - 54% growth from 2017 to 2020. When Uday Shankar and Sanjay Gupta, the then CEO and COO of Star India wrote out a Rs. 16,000 crore cheque for the media rights for 5 years, the entire Indian media industry let out an aggregated gasp of awe and surprise. But now, on the threshold of IPL 14, these numbers look pretty tame and real.

-IPL was the highest trending topic on Google in 2020 ahead of Coronavirus in India; in fact was at Rank 5 globally. Which really goes to show the mind-numbing franchise that the League has built up in the past 14 years. It has been a somewhat tumultuous journey with some scandals, some exits and some bruises here and there, but the trajectory by-and-large has been northwards.

-First TV event in India to clock 400 billion minutes of viewing on TV. This is indeed an awesome number of viewing minutes: the inference is simple – India watches little else when the IPL is in progress. In fact even the general entertainment channels (GECs) that should logically have a loyal viewership base for their soaps, suddenly go into hiatus mode. Is it because India is generally a single TV household and the remote is monopolized during IPL by the menfolk or is IPL the full-family favourite? Can’t really say. We will just let the viewership numbers speak.

-IPL takes over TV viewing with 22.5% Share-Of-Voice (SOV) versus 3.5% SOV for the next best channel. In a way I have said that in the point I just made earlier. IPL just nudges out all competition for the 6-odd weeks it monopolises the airwaves.

-IPL clocks a 6x dominance during Prime Television over next best channel on television. These merely buttresses and reiterates the kind of debilitating effect that the IPL has on all other broadcast offerings.

-IPL 2020 broke all television rating records with the most watched IPL opening match of all time with 10.4 ratings & 158 mn audience reach. Such size and scale speaks for itself. Let us not be surprised if these viewership numbers are further surpassed in the current edition.

-IPL is attracting more client partners than ever with over 125 advertisers choosing IPL every year for their key campaigns on television. A report in a leading pink newspaper last week said that 14 sponsors had already signed up on television alone. These did not include the ones that Hotstar+Disney may have signed up separately for the OTT part. What is likely to be even more interesting to those who are not keyed into the media domain is that a lead sponsor forks out atleat Rs. 250-400 crore for the power-visibility on IPL … yes, that is what a Dream 11 or Byju’s spends on the IPL on just television. The likes of a PhonePe or MRF or Policy Bazaar, who are ‘associate’ sponsors would easily spend Rs. 150-200 crore each. So, it is really all in a different leagu altogether!

-Star TV has cranked really up the local flavor in IPL since they took over the broadcast! Nearly 80% of IPL viewing in key South markets is in regional languages (77% of total Television Ratings (TVR) in AP+TN+Karnataka markets come through the regional feeds). This would have looked difficult to achieve even a few years ago, but is now a reality.

-STAR has made IPL a must watch for female audiences, registering a ~70% growth in ratings among female audiences from 2017 to 2020. Nearly half of IPL audiences are today women! In fact the growth from 2019 to 2020 was 21%. What is even more interesting is that 58% of the female viewership comes from the 18-29 years age cohort which is any marketers dream.

-Even the combined might of all GEC impact shows/reality shows do not add up to the reach offered by the IPL. Just 50 days of cricket reaches more than a 400 million audience! No wonder brands and their ad agencies don’t mind expending significant ad dollars during the IPL playing window, most times creating new campaigns that debut on the IPL.

-Since we were just discussing females as the hottest new audience that seems to be loving the IPL, I chanced upon one more data point: the IPL delivers ~40% higher ratings than the top GEC show/soap among female audiences when it is on air. 51% of females that watch IPL, by the way, are single, never married. 43% are married and have children. A good 12% are 40 years+. And 30% are in the 30-39 years age segment. Hmmm… interesting, no?

-And yes, do you remember the Women IPL matches that were sandwiched within the main tournament? Well even those delivered higher ratings than KBC - reaching out to more than a 100mn audience! Honestly, I am not surprised.

Well, one could go on and on. IPL is a subject that begets innumerable statistics and perspectives. The fact remains that the IPL is today India’s foremost sporting brand, by far. It rules both television and digital in consumer engagement. Brands swear by its humongous outreach and impact. IPL 14 will create even higher and bigger records, I am sure : the lofted maximums and the bullet-like fours are now not long to wait for!

Dr. Sandeep Goyal has been three-and-a-half decades in the advertising and media business; and he knows full well that today there is no business bigger than the business of cricket.

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