The hype surrounding IPL has got the official broadcaster SET MAX’s rivals to react. STAR India has released the findings of a report titled, Debunking the Myths – reportedly to break the myth that IPL is bigger than top shows of Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs). Not surprising, since the media frenzy surrounding IPL can lead to an element of irrationality both among viewers and advertisers. The latter is what Star India and it’s co-GEC channels are worried about. They could be led to believe that IPL could dent GEC viewership and hence reduce investments in those channels. Or that IPL is the property to bet on in order to deliver rating points & viewership this season.
According to this report, Hindi GECs have seen a 10.5 per cent drop in the overall share during the IPL period; the top three channels (Colors, Star Plus and Zee TV) have lost out the least, while the second rung (Sony Entertainment TV, Imagine TV and Sab) have crumbled more. The GEC’s have presented a counter argument saying that their year-long Hindi soaps have a more loyal viewership than IPL. Several top shows on the Hindi GECs compare well with IPL when it comes to TVRs. IPL’s big plus of reach (cumulative reach of 108 million viewers in just 14 matches in IPL 3) is also countered – the last edition of IPL (i.e. IPL 2) reached 89.5 million viewers; the cumulative reach of the top Hindi GEC shows was 86 million. Read more about the reports here and here.
I think this is a good move by Star India to commission the research and report it. It is better to take some action rather than simply worrying about the halo around IPL among advertisers. That said, they are comparing apples to oranges (why bring in last year’s viewership of IPL into the picture?). The national reach of IPL cannot be matched by the Hindi GEC’s which don’t have a following in several regions of the country. Numbers aside, there are a few softer issues – the intangibles – that must be considered when comparing IPL and GECs in terms of better options for advertisers.
Every second of the IPL telecast is up for sale. This branding blitzkrieg has it’s downside: the wallpaper effect. I know of several families for whom the IPL telecast is virtually like elevator music – there is some noise in the background, people carry on with their chores while that is happening, only to peer at the screen momentarily to catch some action. The ads are an overkill. So there is some merit in saying that branding messages can get drowned in this cacophony. Which in turn puts a lot of pressure for the creative to stand out. Very few pass the test – and I would include Axe and Idea’s Oongli Cricket among them.
The high cost of advertising during the IPL has also forced advertisers to air shorter edits of current commercials. Some of those work only if the longer version of the ad has been exposed sufficiently. Some simply can’t fit in a story in a short span of time and ed up running a sub-optimal version of the main ad.
As we go along, advertisers will get better at using IPL. Maybe we will see more regional or lesser known brands using the event as a short cut to creating awareness. Witness Karbonn and Maxx Mobile. Maybe only those advertisers with very deep pockets will stick with IPL – like the telecom guys. The Hindi GEC genre on the other hand, is staple diet for many big and medium advertisers. To that extent, IPL is catering to a different set of needs and clients. The GEC’s are feeling the heat and have attempted to debunk myths. But both have their strengths. One may go easy on desserts but not on the staple diet.