With Tata IPL 2023 surpassing expectations in terms of viewership and fan engagements, broadcaster Disney Star is now gearing up for another leap in the coming sporting events, including ICC tournaments and pro-Kabaddi league, the company's head for sports Sanjog Gupta said.
During the latest IPL season concluded last week, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data suggested play-offs delivered a 44% higher rating than last year and surpassed the previous peak recorded during 2020.
As per news agency PTI, the surge in viewership extended to the Hindi-speaking markets, where Disney Star grabbed the highest viewership ever with 32.9 crore.
"It has surpassed our expectations," Gupta told PTI, adding, "most of the records have been broken" this season in terms of viewership.
Now Disney Star would focus on the coming ICC events such as Asia Cup and India's tour to South Africa besides pro-kabaddi league, in which it has invested substantially, as per PTI.
"We are currently very much focused on the Pro-Kabaddi league... We have managed to build a foundation for Pro-Kabaddi, which it can leap from. The second leap of kabaddi is due. It is going to be the 10th season of kabaddi, which is coming up. It's time to take the next leap in its journey," he said.
When asked about Disney Star's expansion by adding new tournaments/ league titles beyond cricket, Gupta said the group is always interested to experiment in other sports as well.
"We are always open to the idea of experimenting with a new sport and will continue to position ourselves and build a portfolio which is genuinely multi-sport than a single sports portfolio," Gupta said.
He added, "We have been partners with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports over the last five years for 'Khelo India' initiatives. The whole purpose of being involved in the multi-sport like that we use to be able to showcase all sports which are popular and have a high degree of participation in India on Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar."
Now Disney Star is gearing up for the WTC (World Test Championship) Final tournament, which is going to be a big cricketing event for the fans.
"Obviously India has not won any ICC event since 2013. So, the stakes are high for this one to actually win an ICC event after 10 years. We are obviously building this as the ultimate test for the Indian team," he said, adding, "After this, we have Asia Cup which is likely to happen later this year and then the big one, the World Cup, which is coming back to India after 12 years, in October, November." This will be followed up by the India tour of South Africa.
"In terms of what's next, I think there is a lot that is lined up on Star Sports over the next six months itself," Gupta added.
Terming this IPL season overall as "fantastic", Gupta said Disney Star said the viewing figures which have emerged have broken most of the previous records.
"We have also seen 46 matches crossing the peak concurrency of three crore viewers per match which has been phenomenal," he said.
The overall consumption which is in terms of minutes watched is also the second highest after Covid, which shows the "intensity and frequency" of consumption of overall engagement.
"Across all metrics, it is an unprecedented IPL in terms of the response that we have got from fans and the viewing figures on the Disney Star suggest that it is obviously the biggest IPL ever," he said.
This time IPL has delivered on multiple strategic priorities that the organisation had. Compared to last season, there is a growth in the premium demographic, which is the higher socio-economic classes, and growth among the youngest demographic of viewers which is kids below the age of 14.
The 2023 season of IPL viewership had a competition between TV and digital. Disney Star had television rights, while Reliance-backed Viacom18 had digital rights had done live streaming with its OTT platform JioCinema.
JioCinema has also created several records in terms of 12 crore unique viewers and 3.2 crore of peak concurrency in Tata IPL 2023.
Over this, Gupta said, "We do not see it as a competition. The two platforms are different. Our focus is on serving fans. We believe that we are putting out an ideal viewing experience for the fan who wants to watch IPL and have an experience which is synonymous with Star Sports and with the big screen." The same fan may choose to follow the IPL on handheld devices when he or she doesn't have access to the big screen or TV.
"That is addictive. If that helps develop or grow the engagement of the fan with IPL and deepen the affinity for IPL then it is only adding to the overall price," he said.
He further added Disney Star was "agnostic of screens" as it had live coverage of the IPL matches available on TV and other associated content available on its digital platforms.
Besides, Disney Star is also looking to add more languages for commentary for the next season of IPL. It started the journey of localising cricket and customising cricket for specific regions in 2012 in regional languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi.
"We are constantly looking for new spaces or the new regions we have the potential for growth that we can go into by adding not just a language but also a localised way of covering or a localised take on the cricket coverage," said Gupta, Disney Star will continue to experiment and look at newer opportunities for growth not just on the language vector, but also on other vectors such as programming etc.
Besides, in this season of IPL, several new heroes have emerged such as Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rinku Singh and Ruturaj Gaikwad, and they have become household names now.
"It is a great sign that on one side new heroes are coming and becoming popular and on the other side viewers below the age of 14 are watching in larger numbers than ever before on TV," Gupta added.