In their first outing as IPL’s broadcasters, Star India is facing a strange problem – while the ratings for the matches are on the rise, they are not consistent through the match, the viewership is dropping close to midnight. The reason: all the matches this season have stretched on longer than the scheduled 11.20 pm end time, sometimes finishing 30 minutes later with the presentation ceremony.
With daily matches on weekdays and such long delays, it is evident that sleep is winning this battle for the average Indian audience. Even in cases of close matches, there has been a noticeable fall in TRPs at the end of the match. Star India had bagged the global IPL media rights for an astronomical Rs 16,347.50 crore.
Sanjay Gupta, the managing director of Star India, told The Indian Express that there was a nearly 40-50% drop around 11 pm.
“The drop starts at 10.45 pm to about 25% and then it increased progressively. The last half hour in a normal match should be your highest number of viewers. If you compare it to what you call an opportunity cost, the gap could be as high as 50 per cent. Most of small-town India and a large part of urban India start sleeping around 11-11.30 pm. Even entertainment programs peak before 10 pm and dip thereafter,” Gupta was quoted as saying.
This decline in ratings could be one the primary reasons why the four IPL playoff matches this season were rescheduled to start at 7 pm instead of 8.
One of the reasons for the delay, according to Gupta, is the introduction of DRS. “Roughly the matches are ending half-hour later at around 11.55 pm to midnight broadly. We think there will be a dramatic increase in people who will be available from 7-11 pm as compared to 8 pm to midnight just because of that last one hour,” he said.
An earlier report had stated that Star had asked the BCCI to advance the match start by an hour earlier as well. However, IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said that some of the franchises were not so keen on the change because stadiums don’t fill at that time.
As The Field had written earlier in the season, matches have regularly shot beyond the scheduled end-time of 11:20 pm, with only Virat Kohli and Ainkya Rahane being fined for over-rates. However, rarely has a match finished within its given time so far this season.