Low viewership googly puts Champions League on sticky wicket

Written by Priyanka Akhouri | Mumbai | Updated: Oct 20 2009, 06:24am hrs
As the inaugural edition Airtel Champions League T20 (CLT20) comes to the end of its second week, the tournament seems to be struggling to keep up with viewer expectation.

As per data data supplied by television viewership monitoring agency TAM, the first six matches of the CLT20 delivered an average TVR (television rating) of 1.16, much lower than expected, said media planners. Industry sources said ESPN Star Sports is looking to garner Rs 275 crore in ad revenue from the 19 matches of the Champions League. ESPN has already blocked 75% of the inventory for the tournament. "The broadcaster will be hardpressed to push the balance ad inventory," said a Mumbai-based media planner, who refused to be identified in the story. "At present, it looks unlikely that a new advertiser will come in and invest in a property that is not being appreciated widely." Both the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI), the owner of CLT20, and broadcaster ESPN Star Sports were betting big on the tournament, given the fantastic response to the Indian Premier League (IPL), also owned by the BCCI, which has already seen two successful seasons.

The viewership of the CLT20 matches involving three IPL teams Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Deccan Chargers swung in a big way. The first match of the tournament on October 8 between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Cape Cobras garnered a TVR of 6.1 in Bengaluru, the best viewer rating so far. However, the match between Deccan Chargers and Sussex Sharks on October 10 got a rating of 1.80, while the match between Delhi Daredevils and Victoria Bushrangers fetched a rating of 1.43.

Timmy Kandhari, leader, media and entertainment, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said, "There was a lot of hype created around the tournament, but it seems that it has failed to perform as per the expectations of the viewers. First, it was a wrong time to launch the tournament because of the festive season. Also, with new players involved in the teams, there is a lack of awareness about them.

The CLT20 all-India average TVR of 1.2 for the first five matches (including two matches not featuring any IPL team) was marginally higher than the average TVR of 1.1 delivered by the recently held ICC Champions Trophy across all matches. Matches not featuring Indian teams did not even reach a TVR of 1 during the ICC Champions Trophy.

Mahesh Ranka, general manager, India Relay Worldwide, Starcom MediaVest Group, said, "The fundamental structure of CLT20 is not very appealing. Since viewers are interested mostly in Indian teams and matches, it's obvious that a small set of people would be watching the tournament. The tournament will take time to make a mark. With Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore still in the tournament, there is some hope.

"Since the tournament was also being compared to the IPL, it had also raised viewer expectation. IPL, having both Indian and international players, definitely has a upper hand as compared to CLT20," added PwCs Kandhari.

However, expectations from media planners are still high as they feel the ratings will improve after as people become aware of players and get used to the unique format of the tournament.

Pradeep Hejmadi, vice-president, marketing, TAM Sports, in a report said, "With two of the three IPL teams already having made it through to the second stage, we hope interest among viewers will only grow. For the championship to garner such a response in the initial few days bears testimony to the potential of this tournament. The city-based loyalties for IPL teams also seem to be coming through, but wonder how these loyalties will progress in the years ahead. The tournament is being held in India from October 8-23.