Monday, May 14, 2012

King of prime-time

prime_time by Kupferfeld
prime_time, a photo by Kupferfeld on Flickr.
Notwithstanding many ifs and buts about IPL's ability to deliver strong numbers in the fifth season, BCCI's billion dollar baby has turned out to be a resilient brand. The annual carnival of cricket-cum-entertainment, though not on a joyride, is once again a clear leader in mass entertainment space. Since the fifth season began on April 4, 'cricketainment' has taken centerstage on rating charts.

According to TAM Sports data, a division of TAM Media Research, out of the first six matches played between April 4 and 7 (week 14, 2012), four prime-time matches figured in the list of top ten shows across channels with all-India ratings ranging between 6.31 TVR on the higher side and 3.8 on the lower. The other two matches were afternoon games. In comparison, fiction shows which occupied six slots were far behind at 4.3 TVR for Diya Aur Baati Hum and 3.13 TVR for Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai at tenth place. Similarly, all seven prime-time matches out of the 10 played between April 8 and 14 ruled over prime-time dailies with ratings ranging between 5.26 and 3.77 TVR. These matches occupied seven slots in top ten shows in all-India market, while ratings for daily soaps hovered between 3.92 for Diya Aur Baati Hum and 3.03 for Ek Hazaron Mein Meri Behna Hai.

Again in week 16, all seven prime-time matches figured among top ten shows at all-India level. While the highest rating for IPL matches during the week was 5.45 TVR and lowest 3.59, the high for fiction shows was 3.75 and low 2.88 TVR. After topping the charts for three weeks in a row, two general entertainment shows edged out cricket from top two slots in week 17(April 22 to 28). DID Little Master 2 with 4.5 TVR and Diya Aur Baati Hum at 4.48 topped the list, while seven prime time matches occupied the next seven slots.

With as many as 17 out of 36 matches garnering 4-plus rating, there is no denying that cricket is literally grabbing prime-time eyeballs. However, the average ratings for IPL 5 are slightly softer than last season. According to TAM Sports data, the average for 36 matches played till April 28 stands at 3.41 TVR against 3.67 for 37 matches last year. The cumulative reach is also on lower side - 144.9 million against 149 million last year. However, it is significantly higher over the first three seasons which recorded higher ratings (see table).

So are the ratings in line with expectations? "Not really. Last year there was a definite reason for lower numbers but this year IPL should have fared better," says Anil Kumar, group accounts director of media buying agency Starcom Mediavest. While MAX and its parent company Multi Screen Media's officials avoided commenting on ratings, Amin Lakhani, principle partner, Mindshare India, doesn't deny that ratings are soft but says they are quite decent. "The average for prime-time matches is easily around 4.5 TVR. How many properties deliver this kind of numbers in all-India market on a daily basis for such a long period? The numbers don't look great because afternoon games drag the average down," he elaborates.

Media buying agency Mediacom's business group head Ramaswamy Ranganathan says the dip was expected. "But it has nothing to do with IPL. It can only be attributed to cricket fatigue. IPL is suffering because of too much cricket available on TV," he points out. In fact, according to Ramaswamy, IPL has gone beyond cricket. "It is a very big property and only event in India which gets maximum eyeballs. It can truly be compared with Super Bowl football event in US which draws biggest eyeballs," he adds.

Even though average ratings are soft, both Anil and Amin admit that there is no significant drop this year. "Generally ratings tend to drop by the middle of tournament. But this year ratings are consistent because of several close matches and some significant performances from new faces," says Anil. According to Amin, IPL did immensely well in the first three seasons but comparing the current season with earlier ones in today's fragmented market is not right. "It is a very long event and the fact that it is consistent means the format is slowly developing loyalty. On a relative or aggregate level, it continues to be a prime property between 8 and 11.30 pm," he explains.

While the numbers are not so much of a worry, the worrying factor for broadcaster Sony MAX is negative sentiment on the part of media buying agencies and advertisers, thanks to the premium MAX has been demanding. Industry sources say that while MAX is already under stress on inventory and revenue, it is however holding on to the premium. Each year IPL commands 10 to 15 per cent premium but this year because of gloomy economic scenario, advertisers are still not willing to accede to MAX's demand. As a result, MAX is still sitting on 30 per cent unsold inventory, which is the commercial time though lately it has started becoming flexible by offering customized packages.

Whether Multi Screen Media which was expected to break even this season will eventually enter positive territory is anybody's guess, but IPL continues to be media buyers' pet property. "It is the longest pan-India event which offers huge exposure to advertisers over 54 days," says Anil. While Ramaswamy says the law of averages will eventually catch up and ratings will plateau, IPL will continue to be consumed in big numbers. "But you can't keep on hiking ad rates every year," he adds.

Source Citation
"King of prime-time." Screen 11 May 2012. Communications and Mass Media Collection. Web. 14 May 2012.
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Gale Document Number: GALE|A289265168

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