Television ratings for the IPL have continued to fall in comparison to 2011, but observers say the IPL is still a "very successful media property" and when it comes to ratings, it has been a victim of its own initial success.
The average Television Viewer Ratings (TVR) for the first 16 games of 2012 was 3.65, down 8.75% from the average of 4.00 at the same point last season. (TVR is a time-weighted figure which accounts for time spent by viewers in addition to the number of viewers). The cumulative number of people who tuned in to watch those games also declined from 127.40 million to 122.44 million, a drop of 3%, according to TAM Sports, a division of Tam Media Research, the leading television ratings agency in India ("Cumulative reach" is the number of individuals who watched a channel/programme for at least one minute).
However, the continued popularity of the league in relation to other television channels was reflected in the IPL [shown on Set Max] claiming the top five highest rated shows for the week from April 8 to April 14 and seven of the top 10, as reported by IndianTelevision.com. The game that drew the highest rating was Mumbai Indians' Kieron Pollard-inspired defeat of Rajasthan Royals on April 11, which posted a TVR of 5.26. Mumbai Indians' last-ball victory over Deccan Chargers on April 9 finished a close second, with a rating of 5.2.
"Viewership may have dropped but give me any other property that gives that kind of TVRs," Hiren Pandit, Managing Partner-Entertainment, Sports and Partnerships at Group M, a prominent media buying agency, told ESPNcricinfo. "That in itself says everything. The story is about, are you comparing the IPL to the IPL or are you comparing it to something else.
"What we need to keep in mind is that any repeat has also delivered lower TVRs. At some point, it will settle down."
Typically, if a television program on a general entertainment channel posts an average TVR of 4.00, it is considered to be a success. At this stage in 2010, the IPL had an average rating for 4.61. However, with the IPL on television screens every day for seven weeks, even an average of 3.65 is an indication of a show with a strong appeal. "Getting a three-something TVR is not bad at all," Santosh Desai, brand analyst and managing director of Future Brands, said. "To get it consistently on a daily basis is excellent. There is nothing that compares. You are talking about a very successful media property."
Of course, none of this is to say the league does not have its concerns. Prior to the season starting on April 4, Sony had reportedly only sold 60-70% of its total inventory (at a rate of around Rs 5 lakhs for a ten-second spot) and has fewer advertisers this year than last. Executives at Sony did not respond to calls or text messages seeking comment.
According to Desai, the IPL's biggest problem is that it was overpriced at the very beginning, with too many people trying to squeeze too much money out of it. Viewership for the tournament is also based on sentiment, he said, and sentiment can change very quickly. "When the tide turns, then it can turn dramatically."
One potential explanation for the decline in ratings, Desai said, is that some of the non-cricketing audiences that took to the IPL in earlier years are now returning to their normal viewing habits. "The moment you decide to watch the IPL, you decide not to watch something else. So I think what you are seeing is a tipping of the balance back and a return to normal programming by the non-cricketing audience."
Pandit expects the ratings to be improve thanks the recent spate of close games and said that in the ultimate analysis, the league's continued appeal with viewers will depend on the quality of the cricket and not the entertainment that surrounds it. If the matches are exciting, then "you don't want to miss out when someone in the office tells you, 'did you see the match last night?'"