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How good is the IPL as a TV product?


‘.. and it’s time for the Strategic time-out’, the commentator says to reappear or more appropriately to be reheard about 5 seconds short of 2.5 minutes, counting down those last few seconds on the ticker. In between we have all the brands who have affiliated with the IPL promote their products. Cricket is probably the only sport which gives such live airtime to its advertisers, and probably the reason why the broadcaster attempts at providing all possible time space to its investors. Nothing wrong with the advertiser or the broadcaster for each entity is trying to maximize its potential gains.

During the current season we now have had two outstanding high-scoring ‘afternoon’ games, involving teams chase down big totals (CSK vs RCB & RR vs DC), followed by the 2nd game of that day. In between the broadcaster manages to squeeze only the post-match presentation and 2-3 minutes of packaged highlights; for a TV viewer this is too short a time to recreate the match that has transpired. In general, more often than not we end up watching highlights of an outstanding innings, a tight game, or a brilliant bowling spell again and again. IPL matches or the contents in it aren’t provided the space to allow the viewer to ruminate whatever he has seen.

Undoubtedly the IPL is more of a commercial product using the glamorous avatar of the game, but we ought to look at it from the perspective of it being a prime-time event. Those who advocate for the IPL will always cite the genre of viewership it gets on TV. The time slots (prime-time) are designed to accommodate those who struggle to follow ODI cricket or test matches during day times. Families go out to the stadiums to cheer for their favorite sides; while a few others enjoy the 3 & something hours of ‘cricketainment’ over dinner! To maintain simplicity the broadcaster has traditionally roped in VJs to anchor mid-innings, conduct pre and post match analysis and reports; probably because that helps the ‘non-ardent’ cricket followers connect to what is going on.

TV ratings were the talking point of the IPL after the first week. The ratings are down and experts will debate over the possible reasons. Despite of those shabby numbers, the IPL as a cricket product is still good enough, even if you compare it with successful TV soaps or weekend events. IPL as a TV product will have lots of questions to ponder upon for the ratings aren’t growing. The 4th edition had a valid reason to back the resultant ratings; season 5 will struggle to provide reasons unless the ratings improve. Like it should be, the focus was shifted from glossy bollywood performances during the opening night to performances on the field. Good televised packaging leads to higher viewership, similarly you wouldn’t want to watch what you don’t quite like. Move around IPL viewers and you may find a section of people who likes to watch live cricket but follow pre & reviews somewhere else for he doesn’t get what he likes to watch - contemplate on the action that he has witnessed. The problem with multi-genre viewership is to target the group which has the majority and cater accordingly. The IPL has such a diverse fan base that the organizers and broadcasters won’t have an easy task identifying the reasons for the drop in its TV ratings; but they will have to, for the IPL is primarily a TV product!

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