IPL 2023: Disney Star elated with the response, says 30.7 cr viewers tuned in for first 10 matches

Sanjog Gupta, Head - Sports, Disney Star, is elated with the overwhelming response to the network's coverage of the IPL 2023

New Delhi: Sanjog Gupta, Head – Sports, Disney Star, is elated with the overwhelming response to the network’s coverage of the IPL 2023 as the official television broadcaster of the cash-rich league has clocked 6230 crore minutes of watch time for the opening 10 matches of the ongoing season.

Citing the BARC data, the broadcaster stated that it has garnered 23% more viewers with a cumulative reach of 30.7 crore viewers for the first 10 matches in comparison to previous IPL editions (excluding editions played during lockdown) and is optimistic that fans will be glued to their TV screens for the remainder of the season.

Notably, the peak concurrency on TV for the opening match of 5.6 cr was also the highest ever in IPL history excluding the Covid-19 period.

The network also mentioned that the TVR among affluent male urban sports audiences has grown by almost 25% in comparison to the last edition.

“We are elated with the overwhelming response to Disney Star’s broadcast of IPL 2023. We have received viewing figures, or ratings, as you call them, for the first 10 matches and we’ve seen records being broken. It’s the second-highest, most-watched IPL in history as far as the first 10 matches are concerned, other than two years of Covid-19.

“We keep those (numbers of Covid-19 phase) out of our consideration because you know, everyone used to be home and it’s not fair to compare those two editions with other editions of IPL but this edition of the league has gone off to a fantastic start and has received an overwhelming response from fans on television. We’ve had three 30.7 crore viewers watching the first 10 matches, which as I said is second highest ever and second highest is not by too much, it’s a very small, small margin,” Sanjog Gupta, Head – Sports, Disney Star told IANS in an exclusive interview.

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“The consumption, the overall viewing which is the watch time is also up, it is at 6230 crore minutes, which is again unprecedented and it shows the power of IPL, Star Sports and Disney Star in being able to provide viewers with the kind of coverage they want to watch. It also shows the power of the brand that we’ve been able to create over many years, association with cricket and the deep love that it has from fans across the country,” he added.

The ongoing 2023 season has produced back-to-back five last-over finishes and thrillers and Sanjog feels this is what makes the IPL — the ultimate cricketing League — the best-in-class sports competition in this country and gives the channel confidence about their investment in the league.

“It’s fantastic. It just reinstates our faith and deep belief in IPL, being the ultimate cricketing League and the best-in-class sports competition in this country. And it also to some extent, gives us even more confidence in the investment that we have made in IPL because at the end of the day, what viewers and fans really want to watch are exciting games and great performances, just the kind of thrillers that we’ve been having over five consecutive days from Sunday to Thursday,” he said.

“I think the fundamental truth about sport is that exciting competitive sport brings together people and it allows people to express themselves and feel a range of emotions during three hours in which they otherwise wouldn’t feel. And also feel a sense of excitement, mixed with nervousness, which perhaps no other content genre can provide and all of it is real and all of it is live, which makes it that much more compelling. So in every sense, these last five days have been really exciting. And I think this sets up the league for what it promises to be,” he added.

For the time in the history of IPL, there are two different broadcasters — TV and digital — which have definitely increased the competition between the broadcasters to rope in the best commentators and analysts of the game on their platform. And for Disney Star, the challenge is even bigger as a few of their contracted analysts — Gautam Gambhir (LSG mentor), Sanjay Bangar (RCB head coach) and others — get involved with the franchises in different capacities during the IPL.

While the Sports Head of the channel admits to the competition from rivals, he believes to have hired the best of the talent. According to him, more than 80 former cricketers are working on various feeds with them, ranging from Harbhajan Singh to Irfan Pathan in Hindi, Krishnamachari Srikant and Badrinath in Tamil, Venugopal Rao and MSK Prasad in Telugu and others.

They also have a few new comers in their team — Steven Smith and Jacques Kallis (English), Yusuf Pathan (Hindi), Murali Vijay (Tamil and English) and S. Sreesanth (Malayalam and English)

“There are two sides to this challenge. One side is that a lot of our long-term contracted talent leaves us for the IPL to become a part of the coaching staff. Actually, some of our experts turned into players for the IPL. Two years back we had Tim Southee, who’s playing IPL now. So we lose some of our experts to IPL, either in coaching positions or playing positions, but that we frankly see as a compliment,” says Gupta.

“The fact that we have experts on our panel, who are being poached by IPL teams because of their knowledge of the game and what they can do on the field for some of them shows that the panel of experts we have is credible and has the kind of knowledge of the game that we want on it.

The other part of the challenge is of course competition. So, we do have another entity which is streaming the tournament and they have taken talent as well. We believe we have retained and recruited the best talent that’s available across,” he added.

Asked about the innovations in the broadcast on Disney Star, the Sports Head highlighted the Dolby Atmos audio and other features like live subtitling, Holobox, Traxis, and Hawkeye 4K Cam, etc.

“In terms of innovations, most of our innovations this year have to do with the coverage itself. Whether it’s producing a big part of our coverage this time is about the audio in the stadiums. So we have reconfigured the entire audio settings of the stadium and we’re producing every game in Atmos in Dolby Atmos and that is because we want viewers at home to really feel the atmosphere,” said Sanjog.

“We wanted to bring alive that facet of our coverage by enhancing the sound of the match itself. There’s a lot of focus that we’ve always given video, but somewhere we found that audio was not getting the same attention and by producing the tournament in Dolby Atmos, we are actually trying to deliver the same actual atmosphere and feel to people’s living rooms as you would have if you were in the stadium. So that’s a big innovation,” he added.

This year, the channel has also focused on its coverage in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Bengali and other popular languages as IPL has returned to its home and away format and is being played in 12 different venues.

As per regional market viewership data, the Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM) has clocked a massive 4400 crore minutes consumption, a 25% increase for the first 10 matches in comparison to last year.

Significant centres for growth in HSM markets are UP, Bihar, MP, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Haryana. Apart from HSM, the Southern markets have also witnessed a substantial growth of 21% increase in consumption to the last edition. Karnataka, with 31%, and AP/Telangana with 33% saw the highest growth in consumption for South Markets.

“…because IPL was going to travel to 12 different venues and there was going to be a lot of fan fervour around India for our coverage, we felt that it’s that much more important for us to focus on the feeds that bring the life and fervour and truly represent the regions where the teams are from. And thus we decided to double down on Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam and Bengali, and others this year,” Sanjog concluded.

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