The Indian Premier League, possibly one of the most-watched sporting events in the country, in its just-concluded season gambled with languages other than English and Hindi, a move that seems to have paid off.
Star India has the rights from 2018 onwards, as opposed to Sony, who held the rights so far. Star decided to aggressively pursue regional markets — and had commentators in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali as well. Marathi and Malayalam were added for the Finals.
Star also roped in brand ambassadors for the markets — Shiva Rajkumar for Karnataka, Jr NTR in AP and Telangana. Other than this, given MS Dhoni’s popularity in Tamil Nadu, being the captain of Chennai Super Kings, they even had a separate promo with him on Star Sports 1 Tamil.
There has always been a demand for regional language broadcasting. According to a report by Chrome Data Analytics and Media, cricket commentary in their language has been a demand by consumers — one that the IPL had tried to make inroads into during the earlier editions as well.
Among its sample size of 873, the report had noted that respondents agreed that the language in which the commentary was aired influences their preferences — as many as 57% Kannadigas, 72% Malayalis, 64% Telugus and 66% Tamilians agreed.
Although there was a surge in viewership during the 11th edition of the sporting event, Sony, the previous broadcaster, had already introduced Tamil commentary in 2015, along with Telugu and Bengali. However, the regional language commentary was offered only on Sony ESPN.
According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council, viewership for IPL had surged by 22% in the regional markets alone.
Star broadcast the IPL on Star Sports 1 English, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Select English, Star Plus, Star Pravah, Star Gold, Star Suvarna Plus, Star Maa Movies, Star Jalsha Movies and Asianet Movies, and online on Hotstar as well.
According to the New Indian Express, the IPL saw nearly 100 commentators taking the mic in languages other than English.
“All you need is somebody who brings some sort of fun element to go with the technical details and if you look at the people on board, there is a very good balance. This could be the way forward even for international cricket,” a source told TNIE.
Speaking to Businessline, Kannada commentator Vijay Bharadwaj said, “The defining difference in regional commentary is that we are using the local dialect and are using the normal language instead of the classical one. With our casual and entertaining commentary, we are easily able to connect with viewers. All of this is borne out by the great response from viewers.”
And, it surely seems to have paid off. In Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, there was an 80% jump in impressions, while Telugu and Kannada saw an increase of 36% and 23% respectively, according to BARC data.
IPL11 reportedly saw close to 1.4 billion impressions, an almost 15% jump from the previous edition. The 2017 edition of the IPL saw a total of 1.25 billion impressions. An impression refers to the number of people watching the match at any given point in its telecast.
The IPL Final broke records both on TV and online, as the language feeds were increased from six to eight. Hotstar saw 10.7 million concurrent viewers and witnessed a growth of 41% as compared to 2017.