It was far from an easy pitch for the Indian Premier League this year. Pandemic fears, sponsorship hiccups, date and venue issues... all threatened the much loved T20 league. But shaking it all off the Dream 11 IPL 2020 has scored a major hit with a 28 per cent increase in viewership over the last edition.

According to TV rating agency Broadcast Audience Research Council, IPL 2020 garnered 400 billion minutes of TV consumption in total. It surpassed the previous record held by last year’s cricket (ODI) World Cup, which had seen 356 billion minutes of consumption — both TV and out of home — with TV alone totalling 344 billion minutes.

According to BARC, IPL 2020 tournament was watched by 405 million viewers, a steep rise over the previous edition which had recorded 326 billion minutes of TV consumption.

“It’s the biggest IPL the nation has seen and the response from fans and advertisers has been stupendous,” said Sanjog Gupta, Head – Sports of Star India, the official IPL broadcaster.

Star India said that the total TV viewership during the tournament reached 31.57 million average impressions.

IPL’s reach increased with the broadcaster beaming the tournament also in five regional language channels — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bangla, and Kannada.

There were other factors, too, for the record viewership. The tournament was a welcome break from the melancholy and boredom caused by the pandemic, said Anuj Kapoor, Assistant Professor of Marketing, IIM-Ahmedabad. He felt the winning formula was in creating an optimal mix of suspense and surprise in the content.


Loyal fan base

According to Giraj Sharma, founder-director of Behind the Moon, a brand consultancy, over the years IPL has almost reached a cult status in India, and has a loyal fan base. “When you serve up matches to this loyal fan base that are so tight that the result is decided in the last over or even leading to a super-over, it is bound to get more eyeballs,” he said.

Going forward will this surge in viewership make the broadcasting and webcasting rights for the tournament costlier? As it is, entities like Amazon and Facebook have entered the fray. Star India’s broadcast rights for IPL will end by 2022.

Broadcasting rights

Sharma felt that the interest shown by new age companies as well as the rising global popularity of IPL would certainly push  the cost of broadcasting rights skywards.

But Kapoor warned that marketers need to be cautious as the surprise factor of the IPL will eventually decrease in magnitude and, therefore, they need to be cognizant of the cost they pay to advertise. Ultimately, the broadcasting fees will be transferred to them in the form of advertising fees, he cautioned.