Cricket and films are religions in India, and in these Covid 19 times, when the latter wasn’t able to deliver owing to restrictions, the former did, and how. According to the latest Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) report, season 13 of Indian Premiere League (IPL) has seen a spike in viewership by 28 percent, compared the season last year.
As per the data, 7.0 billion viewing minutes were registered for the first 41 matches which aired across channels in the last five weeks. Experts say they already saw this coming. Atul Wassan, former Indian cricketer, and now cricket analyst, says, “I had predicted this will happen. People were starved of live action, any sports. We are so used to watching live sports, and this is the best reality show in the world! Other reality shows are also scripted now. For so long, people were just cooped up in the lockdown. Live sports gives you that kind of release.”
There were doubts initially before IPL began — and then there was the fact that live audience wasn’t allowed too in the stadiums. Wassan adds that indeed got worrying. He elaborates, “Even if one percent of the population was not on the ground, 99 percent are TV viewers across the world. They look forward to watching a new game every day. I was crying out loud that nothing is happening, people were thirsty. Once everything is back to normal, people will again have options of football and everything, then they will choose one.”
Producer Pritish Nandy is of the opinion that yes, indeed the pandemic situation contributed. “If it was test cricket, it might not have had such a reaction, but because it’s entertainment cricket — I call IPL that — people flocked towards it. Bollywood always did compete with cricket, but not in a major way because Bollywood is not time bound, cricket is, as per a time table. Films, you can watch anytime,” he explains.
Disputing this BARC research however is ad guru Prahlad Kakar, who says it’s wrong. He says, “The only reason it would have led to viewership, if at all, is if people had nothing else to do. They have been paid by IPL to not lower the value of IPL, and under their control to make it seem hunky dory when it’s not.”
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