The first 16 games in the current season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket tournament are thought to have reached 129 million homes, according to the latest TV ratings from MEC India.
The cumulative, unduplicated reach is up slightly on last year's IPL 5 at this stage, which saw 124 million homes tuning in, according to the statisticians.
However, there is some fluctuation in the data, given the average TV rating for IPL 6 has been set at 3.7 (CS 15+ ABC) after the first 16 games, which is 11% lower than the 4.2 estimate from MEC-Meritus last year. Excluding the new TV audience measurement markets that were not in place last year, the like-to-like average rating is put at 4.0, compared to 4.2 at the same stage of last year's IPL tournament.
IPL's popularity clearly remains high, but with India's nationwide TV digitisation process well in to phase II, television audiences will naturally change shape over coming months. Industry commentators suggest it is too early to predict what impact digitisation will have over viewing numbers: IPL 6 began on 3 April, just three days after the deadline for phase II digitisation across 38 cities in India.
After the first two weeks of this year's T20 cricketing extravaganza, however, figures from Mumbai-based audience measurement company TAM show that SET Max, the official IPL broadcaster, is the second most highly watched channel in India with 234 GRPs. IPL's popularity has once again seen it overtake general entertainment channels such as Colors, Sony and Zee.
Though SET Max still trails behind India's most watched channel, Star Plus, the latter has never before maintained the number one spot during an IPL season – indicating that perhaps this year, the high octane cricketing event isn't attracting quite so many viewers as it once did.