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IPL debuts on general entertainment channel. But is this a step in the right direction?

In a first, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has started airing on a general entertainment channel (GEC).

Star India recently announced that along with its 17 channels, it will start airing IPL 14 matches on its general entertainment channel (GEC) Star Plus every Sunday from April 18. The first match that aired on Star Plus was between Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings.

While experts say that it is a win-win situation for both the channel as well as the league, it looks like the decision was taken due to the impact of the lockdown announced in Maharashtra where shooting of TV serials, films and web series has halted due to rising cases of coronavirus.
“It is more to do with the situation right now. Last time, when the lockdown happened broadcasters did not have content and they were doing reruns. And reruns do not fetch good pricing (in terms of advertising),” said analyst Karan Taurani, Vice-President Elara Capital.

Adding to this, Sandeep Goyal, Chairman, Mogae Media, an advertising agency, said, “The stoppage of shooting has imperiled the banking situation on most serials and Star would have had to resort to re-runs. By taking IPL too onto Star Plus, the re-runs have been avoided.”

In addition, IPL on Star Plus is airing during the 7pm slot which “has always been the ‘prime of the prime’ slots. Even today, this slot perhaps has the largest audience, usually reserved for the latest movie releases on TV, and airing it on this slot will naturally increase audiences,” said N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, a brand intelligence and data insights company.

But will this move lead to an increase in audience for the league which so far has not surpassed the viewership records of the last season?

If we look at the viewership numbers of the opening match last year, the match between MI and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) recorded 11.2 billion viewing minutes. This year, the opening match between Mumbai Indians (MI) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) recorded 9.7 billion minutes of consumption.

While it is too early to assess the overall viewership of the 14th edition of IPL, Taurani thinks that there will not be any big change in terms of viewership.

“Star Plus is a GEC and has a female-led audience. So, if you club that with sports I don’t know how many women would like to watch that (IPL). There may be some set of female audience which you can grab incrementally those who are loyal in watching Star (Plus) but I think it will be a small number.”

Currently, Star Plus is at the top in the Hindi Urban category with 1,575 impressions for the period between April 10-16, according to data by Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC).

Impressions are defined as the number of individuals of a target audience, averaged across minutes.

He further said, “In fact, watching large scale non-fiction shows on repeat basis would be a better proposition than watching IPL. If you compare a Kapil Sharma Show versus IPL on Star Plus, the former will have more viewership because the target audience is different and the kind of content you feed them have to be suited to them.”

Although, Taurani is not expecting any big change in viewership numbers, he added that “they (Star India) realized that this is a better chance to test the market now. It is try and test for Star India because the content supply is not there and there is no harm in trying because they could get an incremental female audience.”

 And when it comes to female viewership for IPL, the league has seen
growth. According to BARC data, women viewership of IPL for the 13th edition grew 23 percent over season 12, higher than 10 percent in 2019. IPL 13 registered 171 billion viewing minutes (female) in 2020, while in 2019, it registered 139 billion viewing minutes (female), the BARC data noted.

This is why Goyal said that airing IPL 14 matches on Sundays at 7 pm “means full family viewership. No fight for the remote.” Money Control

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