Penetration of Star Sports channels across country is at its highest level: Sanjog Gupta

Gupta, Head - Sports, Disney Star, spoke about the factors that are contributing to the IPL 2023 viewership, airing matches on FTA channel for the first time, issues with DPOs, and more

by Sonam Saini
Published - April 14, 2023
5 minutes To Read
Penetration of Star Sports channels across country is at its highest level: Sanjog Gupta

The Indian Premiere League (IPL) 2023 has entered the third week, and according to official broadcaster Disney Star, the 16th edition of the tournament is turning out to be quite a success. Star Sports has clocked 6230 crore minutes of watch time for the opening 10 matches. With a cumulative reach of 30.7 crore viewers for the first 10 matches, the broadcaster has garnered 23% more viewers compared to the previous IPL edition. According to the network, this reach happens to be the second-highest ever in IPL history. The TVR among affluent male urban sports audiences has grown by more than 25% in comparison to the last edition. Sanjog Gupta, Head-Sports at Disney Star, attributes this growth to several factors. According to him, this year, consumers are less fatigued, normalcy has returned and community viewing is back. In addition, the IPL ecosystem has recovered in terms of the itinerary as teams are playing at home.

In conversation with exchange4media, Gupta explains these factors and market conditions that have contributed to the viewership growth, issues with DPOs, airing matches first time on FTA and much more.

Edited Excerpts

The viewership figures indicate that IPL 16 has had a successful season thus far. What factors have aided this growth?

There are four big factors. First is that the IPL fatigue has worn off. Before this, four IPLs were held within 18 months so there was fatigue. But now IPL has returned to its original window and there has been a year’s gap, so there is immense demand.

Secondly, the IPL ecosystem itself is more robust this time. The matches are being played at 12 locations throughout the nation, which essentially means that more cities and regions are becoming active. People are clamouring for tickets and are eager to visit the stadium to watch their favourite teams play, which has increased the excitement and buzz surrounding the IPL.

The third factor, which I think is related to the first, is that our marketing campaign, which essentially encouraged and promoted community viewing, has been successful. People have realised that the central idea we worked with—that sport is best experienced in community—is true.

Lastly, the BCCI, the participating teams and Star Sports deserve praise for the spectacular coverage of the tournament. The opening ceremony and the programming around it was watched by 20 crore people, and this was even before the IPL began. The quality of the games has been very good. In terms of fan engagement, the teams and franchises excel. All of that has contributed significantly to the IPL's booming surround sound, which is drawing in viewers.

Which markets and regions are contributing most to the viewership?

Our marketing campaign was actually centred on a few key markets. And, while we haven't analysed all of the data, early indications suggest that Gujarat has done exceptionally well, which is a testament to our strategy. We signed up Hardik Pandya as our brand ambassador to really drive up the feeling of pride in supporting the Gujarat team. We introduced Gujarati feed last year, and we scaled it up this year, which has contributed to the growth.

The second market that has done particularly well is UP, where we are seeing significant growth as a result of a partnership with Lucknow Super Giants. We are marketing Lucknow Super Giants as a brand and a franchise. Also, we have signed KL Rahul, who also happens to be their captain, as a brand ambassador with the goal of driving fandom for the franchise and fandom for IPL in that market.

Karnataka is the third market which is growing as well.

This is the first time that Disney Star has aired IPL on its free-to-air (FTA) channel, Star Utsav Movies. What kind of traffic are you getting from that channel?

The first game was on FTA and then we've had two more games after that. So three matches have been aired on Star Utsav Movies. We haven't crunched data by channels yet, but it won't be that significant because it's only three games out of 10.

The network has also experienced some issues with DPOs in the recent weeks. How has this affected the viewership of the game? Is the problem now resolved?

Most of those issues got resolved before the IPL even started. So it has had limited impact in maybe a few cities but nothing that has been significant enough to affect the ratings.

After the recent order relevant to Kerala, I think most of these issues are sorted. The penetration of the Star Sports channels across the country is at its highest level ever. So, more viewers have an opportunity to watch IPL today than they've ever had. Our availability and penetration is at its highest level and that's primarily because the distribution team has done a fantastic job of closing all the deals that needed to be closed with the operators before the IPL even started.

Given that the IPL is already a well-established property, what was the focus of this year's marketing and promotional campaign?

The fact that we had to come up with an insight and a proposition that would compel viewers to come and watch IPL on Star Sports was a unique aspect of our campaigns this time. That's a big difference. When we promoted IPL in the past, we were largely brand-agnostic, but this time we wanted to focus on building IPL on Star as a concept.

We wanted to maximize the visibility and leverage the equity we enjoy. The campaign needed to skew Star Sports actively and aggressively.

The second was that we wanted to drive consideration for the bigger screen, because ultimately, our insight was that if a fan truly wants to experience IPL in its full glory, he or she should be watching on the big screen.

The third and final facet of it was that we wanted to deepen our association with key heroes of the game, and which is why we signed up Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul and others and, worked closely with Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings and Lucknow Super Giants to make sure that our association with sport and our association with IPL is deeper and more corporate.