The early matches in this season's Indian Premier League (IPL), considered the hottest TV property in India, have attracted fewer television viewers than for any of the tournament's previous four editions, according to new audience research.
The average TV viewer rating (TVR) for the first six matches has fallen to 3.76 from an average last year of 4.63 among C&S 4+ across India, according to TAM Sports - a division of audience measurement company TAM Media Research.
IPL 5 has, it says, reached 90.1 million viewers so far, while IPL 4 – which was played on the back of a successful ICC World Cup campaign by the national cricket team of India - attracted 101.7 million. Online viewing figures do not form part of the research.
"I don't find the ratings surprising. I was expecting it. Certainly, fatigue and India's sub-par performance on foreign soil has been instrumental in taking the sheen off cricket," Suresh Balakrishna, chief executive officer, LMG is quoted as saying in Business Standard.
Rohit Gupta, president of Multi Screen Media, the operator of IPL's broadcast partner channel SET Max, has said it is too early to comment on the figures, given the tournament is yet to "pick up". He pointed to certain matches that have already registered a rating above 5 - far higher than the average given by TAM.
IPL sponsor Vodafone echoed his view. "IPL for us has delivered well, both in terms of efficiency of reach and effectiveness of on-ground engagement. It is still the biggest mass media property in the country. The quality of the cricket played will finally determine how successful it is and how important it will remain in the future," a company spokesperson told Business Standard.
Pepsi, Idea and Tata Photon are among the other IPL sponsors for the current season. Last year SET Max reportedly earned revenues in excess of INR 1,000 crore, from about 70 on-air advertisers.