JioCinema and Star Sports have pulled the big guns out for this year's IPL season.
As per Ajit Varghese, Head of Network Ad Sales at Disney Star, whether it is advertisers’ support, ratings or consumer experience, TV has continued to dominate on IPL.
Dismissing the Media Partners Asia report on IPL launched on the eve of this year’s T20 cricket league, Varghese said, “It lacks research, homework and any connection with the market sentiments. It seems exaggerated and one-sided. None of the numbers reported in the report has any logic.”
He further said, “TV delivers 2.5-3 times more than people snacking IPL on digital. The time spent on TV is 2 times more than digital for IPL. In terms of concurrency, it’s 4-5 times on TV. It gives confidence to us that we have invested in the right property on a long-term basis.”
Having spent most of his career on the advertisers' side, Varghese believes in the merits of both TV and digital. He believes clients make choices between mediums based on their requirements, but emphasised that any sport is a large-screen experience.
He said, “I will stand by it even 5 years later. It is not something I am saying because I work with Disney Star now. I am also not saying digital doesn’t have merits. Disney+Hotstar too has cricketing and non-cricketing events. We sell those properties on digital’s merits. Neither do we have to de-sell digital to sell TV, nor de-sell TV to sell digital. I don’t think that narrative is good for any client. Clients are aware of the advantages of various mediums. We are only against exaggerated claims, de-selling and making the competition look down. These are not helpful narratives. These narratives don’t work in front of the clients.”
Read the full interview below.
What are your observations about brands’ expenditure this IPL season?
There was much more euphoria around the previous IPL during the last Covid-19 because it was a low-content market. The ratings, consumer experience and adex on IPL were much higher.
Having said that, this year there have been headwinds in both start-ups and the e-commerce sector, which is going slower than last year. There is a global impact of the Russia-Ukraine war. This has an impact on the economy, the clients’ marketing budget and consumer spends. These headwinds are being experienced across platforms and ecosystems in the last 5-6 months. All this has nothing to do with the IPL.
We haven’t seen any change in the TV vs digital mix compared to the last few years. The mix continues to remain the same. According to our IPL revenue projections for this year, the TV vs digital ratio continues to be 3:1.
Whether it is advertisers’ support, ratings or consumer experience, TV has continued to dominate. This is something we are confident of this year and in the coming year.
There are several data points available about the revenue figures of IPL until last year. Can you tell us the official ad and subscription revenue figures for TV and digital in IPL 2022?
There are different figures floating in the market for a very privately-held company. Our clients and agencies have never asked for our IPL revenue numbers directly, but they have a rough estimate of it. They are aware of what is happening in the industry.
In the case of IPL, volume is directly proportional to revenues. The way the volume has gone down this year in the opening match and first week, how much of a shortfall do you anticipate this year from last year?
Obviously, the market is not similar to last year in many ways. We don’t see more than a 10-15% impact versus last year, which is a trend across platforms and not specific only for IPL. Although, the Day 1 match of Mumbai Indians versus Chennai Super Kings was fully sold out.
According to the Media Partners Asia report, this year Disney Star is expected to get Rs 1,810 crore in ad revenue. Do you agree with this number?
We would like to dismiss the report completely. It lacks research, homework and any connection with the market sentiments. It seems exaggerated and one-sided. None of the numbers reported in the report has any logic.
Not only broadcast but the entire M&A industry is witnessing a downturn because of the absence of several categories, especially the new-age clients. Moreover, many other categories have limited money for advertising. What makes you believe that they will ride the IPL bandwagon amidst the tournament?
We evaluate IPL across three parameters: consumer experience, the performance of the event and advertisers’ support. Markets going upside and downside are cyclical in nature. When we evaluate IPL, we look at its consistency as an event.
On the consumer experience front, TV continues to deliver to families and communities in terms of celebrations and mood upliftment. This also reflects in the ratings. There is a 30% uplift in ratings of Day 1 of IPL in comparison to last year. Most of it has come on the back of a 50% increase in viewing time. This is a clear indication that IPL will continue to deliver on TV.
TV delivers 2.5-3 times more than people snacking IPL on digital. The time spent on TV is 2 times more than digital for IPL. In terms of concurrency, it’s 4-5 times on TV. It gives confidence to us that we have invested in the right property on a long-term basis.
When it comes to advertisers' support, every 3-5 years, the client mix and economy change. Therefore, there are headwinds and tailwinds accordingly. We believe that there are more headwinds this year because of certain global events. On one hand, some clients are cautious in spending. On the other hand, some clients understand the value the game delivers for the brand.
The clients who believe in cricket have continued to invest. There are clients who have changed their marketing calendar because of current caution in the market. Start-ups and e-commerce have winter setting in and have lesser cash to burn this year than the previous years. This has affected advertising in totality.
In earlier seasons of IPL, we were used to hearing that inventories are filled up to nearly 100% even before the beginning of the tournament. We are almost two weeks into the tournament now. When can we expect Star Sports to put up a “house-full” sign?
It has never filled up before the tournament. I don’t think any event is full before it starts. Normally, a certain percentage of inventory is kept aside during the course of the tournament.
How have been your experiences in handling queries about digital vs TV, especially from advertisers?
Once the ratings of day 1 came in, there was no confusion among advertisers regarding TV’s performance. Nothing has impacted IPL on TV. We have seen IPL free on digital in 2019 and paid between 2020-2022. Now again it’s free. It has not impacted TV ratings at all. Neither 5 years back, nor now.
The question really is, are IPL digital numbers exaggerated and beyond comparison point?
Going by the published numbers on JioCinema, IPL fetched 10 crore viewers in the first weekend of this year. The opening weekend of 2019 had 13.5 crore viewers on D+H. This depicts a 25% downfall this year on JioCinema. The Day 1 watch time on JioCinema this season is 26% lower than the last year’s engagement on IPL on digital (77 minutes last year on Hotstar vs 57 min this year on JioCinema, as per claims).
For a long time, you have been on the other side representing advertisers. How do you see the ongoing viewership claims when it comes to TV vs Digital and how would advertisers react to this?
I have spent a long time in the advertising industry advising clients to plan their ad budgets. My mind still works like that. At the end of the day, we believe that clients should do the right thing to help their brand to grow. When brands grow, all the mediums grow.
I believe customers expect the best experience from different mediums. Clients want to catch the customer in that experiential moment.
Any sport is a large-screen experience. I will stand by it even 5 years later. It is not something I am saying because I work with Disney Star now. I am also not saying digital doesn’t have merits. Disney+Hotstar too has cricketing and non-cricketing events. We sell those properties on digital’s merits. Neither do we have to de-sell digital to sell TV, nor de-sell TV to sell digital.
I don’t think that narrative is good for any client. Clients are aware of the advantages of various mediums. We are only against exaggerated claims, de-selling and making the competition look down. These are not helpful narratives. These narratives don’t work in front of the clients.
A BestMediaInfo.com article said that many advertisers have direct business interests with Reliance in many sectors and feel intimidated. As a competition, how would you react? Do you see this as a disadvantage on your part?
How any advertiser allocates their budget is ultimately a call they need to take. However, the prudent approach for anyone would be to go with the platform that offers them the best reach and therefore, the best RoI on their investment.
Please make me understand the difference between a lesser number of brands and volume in advertising. Because, even with a lesser number of brands, the sense is that inventories are going full. Does this mean that the lesser number of advertisers and categories is irrelevant discussion and the outlay for a brand has increased heavily?
Logically, the outlay for advertisers has increased.
Adding to it, we have not gotten into the narrative of showcasing competitors fetching lesser numbers of advertisers or any such thing. We are not in the game of comparison. The business of digital and TV mediums are different, including the sponsorship outlay and values. Digital is sold on impressions; TV is sold on 10-second rates. At the end of the day, TV is fulfilling a certain narrative for brands. We are working on delivering in the best interest of our clients. Certain narratives are spread out in the market to create confusion and we want to stay out of it.
Do you agree with JioCinema’s claims of 147 crore video views and 5 crore app downloads (App Annie data) during the opening weekend?
This is misguided information. No one in this world looks at match views on digital. The incidents of app crashes are significantly high this season. While the promise of selling was on the huge reach that Jio Cinema will deliver, the narrative is on match-views. The claimed match-views number of 1470 million is also a result of multiple crashes which the majority of the audience faced. Whenever users re-enter the app due to an app crash, a match view is counted.
App Annie data has changed three times in the last three weeks. As per Data.AI, the average session time during IPL on JioCinema is not even near to football. People are dropping off every few minutes, meaning the app experience is bad and the numbers are not what they claim.
While JioCinema claims to have 50 million downloads during the first weekend, the App Annie data shows a total of 2.4 million downloads during the first weekend (first three days, March 31 to April 2). JioCinema is claiming 25 million downloads on Day 1 vs the actual 0.55 million (App Annie download on March 31). The rest I leave to the collective judgement of the advertisers.