Q] Our sources say that you are holding back your inventory this time, unlike previous years when you would go full right at the start of the season. Is it being done on purpose, or is it happening because of market conditions? How has the IPL been for you so far?
Overall, the industry has been going through a headwind for the last six months, and it has nothing to do with IPL per se. You can see any sector or business, be it the start-ups or e-commerce, this is visible across mediums and businesses. Additional factors are global headwinds leading to financial pressures. Also, the marketing calendars are much more spread out and not pre-decided in the way one wants. A lot of decisions are being taken as we go and as we speak. Marketers are thinking on the go, and spreading out investments. It has nothing to do with the medium. The key point here is that we have not seen any change in the marketing mix of spends when it comes to Digital vs TV.
Q] There is a lot of negative narrative in the market about IPL this time. Sources in the industry say that this has confused the marketers, leading some of them to adopt a wait and watch policy. Do you agree?
The negative commentary never came from us. We have only spoken about our achievements and our strength, we are not in the business of negativity. We feel every platform has its own importance. We are also in an ecosystem that sells sports on Digital. The only piece of confusion in the market could be due to a lot of misleading data out there. We believe that someone needs to ratify the confusion, and I do feel clients want clarity. We are here to sell our TV story and not negate someone else’s story.
Q] A report last month claimed that Star India is likely to lose ground this IPL. It also claimed that the larger share of the ad revenue, up to 60%, is expected to go to Digital, and you may get just 40%. What do you have to say about it?
We look at IPL from three angles- consumer experience, the metrics that come after the IPL starts, and the advertiser support.
If I talk of consumer experience per se Digital versus Digital itself, we have seen that Digital going free has had no impact on television, and I can give you data on all the three claims. We have not seen any shift in the TV vs Digital mix, and nor has there been any change in the budgets. There are always clients who do more of Digital, and then there are clients who will do more of TV, and that mix has been the same. The report that you are talking about looks completely exaggerated to me, and probably doesn’t even have enough research to back the numbers they have claimed.
Q] What is your estimate of the ad revenue split between TV and Digital?
The range, as per our current analysis, is around 75% TV and 25% Digital. We have done this analysis on the basis of our previous years’ data, and after speaking with our agency partners and clients who are doing business with both. We have not seen any drastic shift at all. If you look at the BARC data, the TV ratings on the first day itself went up by 31% when compared to last year, and the viewing time/engagement has gone up by 50%. The increase in viewing time is a clear indicator of consumers enjoying the experience. It shows the strength of the medium where people spend time with family and friends, and watch it on a large screen. We believe that this game is all about community and family viewing. We have also seen the reach going up in double digits. These metrics reaffirm our confidence that IPL, whether it is paid or free on Digital, has no impact on TV viewership.
Q] Your competitor has released reach numbers, which you, in a mailer, have countered with your 2019 numbers when IPL was streamed for free on Hotstar as well. Do you believe that multiple narratives are leading to confusion among marketers and agencies?
There have been lots of claims and counterclaims in the market about the number of downloads of the app. I would love to clarify a few metrics there, which allow us to track where these numbers are, compared to the previous year’s data and reality. Let’s talk about platform reach. Even if I go by the public data that has been released claiming 10cr in the first weekend, it is actually 26% lower than Hotstar’s 2019 numbers when we were showing it for free.
Q] But, overall, Digital is growing drastically across the globe. How can it show a decline for IPL?
We are not questioning the overall growth of the Digital universe. The point that I am talking about is the current IPL scenario. I don’t know the exact answer, but it could be because of the change in the app. We have seen that consumers are still coming to Hotstar. On the opening day, we saw a huge number of downloads of Hotstar app as it was the IPL’s go-to destination for the last four to five years.
Coming back to the metrics, we have also seen claims of watch time, which again is 25-26% lower than Hotstar in SVOD last year. A lot of these data points show that the whole narrative of the landmark moment of more people watching it on Digital has not yet happened.
Meanwhile, the experience of Digital is available on social media. It’s all about app crashing, buffering and logging issues. This probably has dented the numbers as compared to the previous year’s numbers. Also, considering it’s a new app, a lot of shifting has not happened; people are used to seeing IPL on Hotstar. Thirdly, the number of apps installed and downloaded has not increased much. It has been claimed that 25cr people downloaded the app (on the opening day), and another 50cr over the weekend. But we have seen published sources and third-party data, and these numbers are nowhere close to the claims. It could be true that a lot of things they planned for hasn’t happened.
Q] Disney Star has paid Rs 23,575cr for the TV rights of IPL, which means that you will be paying Rs 57.5cr for each match. How do you plan to recover this money?
Markets go through cycles. At the end of the day, we don’t decide when a recession happens or a war takes place, and what will be the implications of that. This is a five-year property that we have invested in. We are confident that spends on TV will continue, and that’s the reason why we are so hopeful. As long as we can convince marketers about the strength of TV, I don’t see any reason to worry in the future as well.
For us, the most important factor is to ensure that consumers have a great IPL experience on our medium. That’s our focus, and money will follow.