The IPL: Cricket's unexpected smash hit

It has surpassed all expectations with half a million British viewers. So who's watching?

When ITV was offered the rights for the IPL for a price that would have struggled to secure the Premier Darts League, let alone the Premier League, the broadcaster's expectations were not great. Three weeks later and it cannot believe its luck.

The Twenty20 tournament has so far delivered viewing figures described as "unheard of" for the channel. With the demise of Setanta, the IPL had been left without a UK broadcaster and offered the rights to ITV for a comparatively lowly sum – a negligible one according to industry experts. In return ITV 4 has garnered an audience that has frequently been more than 10 times its average afternoon viewing figures and often treble the size of its peak-time average. It's money well spent.

The last two Sundays have earned peaks of 563,000 and 530,000 respectively. On that first Sunday, England's Test in Bangaladesh attracted an average audience of 151,000 – ITV 4's average for its nine hours of IPL transmission that day was 297,000. This on a channel that has a usual day-time return of fewer than 50,000, and this for a tournament that averaged 33,000 on Setanta last year.

ITV 4, which has a one-year deal to show the tournament, may be available to more viewers than its pay TV rivals, but nevertheless they are remarkable figures. The peak share of 3 to 4 per cent last weekend compares favourably to the world cycling championships that were shown at the same time on BBC 2. "We are delighted with it," said Niall Sloane, ITV's controller of sport. "It has surpassed all we had hoped for. It has reinvigorated our daytime schedule."

Prior to agreeing the deal, ITV commissioned analysis which offered guarded support, but the channel took a "more bullish view" and has been handsomely rewarded. The bulk of the audience is estimated to be made up of British Asians – ITV is awaiting a demographic breakdown – and it is the Indian continental diaspora that Lalit Modi, the ambitious commissioner of the IPL, is desperate to tap into.

An enthusiastic tweeter, he recently posted his "delight" at the burgeoning UK audience which has lapped up the show hosted by Matt Smith and the Indian actress Mandira Bedi. He is similarly happy with the domestic TV audience too, not surprisingly since the opening game between Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders attracted 42m viewers according to TAM, India's television ratings industry, a 41 per cent growth on year one. Five million watched the game on YouTube, which paid a comparatively modest $7m to become a rights holder.

The figures keep coming. After initial scepticism over the wisdom of looking to add further franchises to the existing eight, the two new ones attracted a joint fee of $703m at an auction on 21 March. When the IPL was set up two years ago, the total bid for the eight teams was $700m.

The coverage is not to everyone's taste, however. It is the most nakedly commercial broadcast seen in this country and ITV's production team struggles to ensure it remains within Ofcom regulations. On screen adverts are blurred and one that runs along the bottom of the screen is covered by an ITV strap. Every detail of the game and its surroundings, from timeouts to catches, is branded to within an inch. Even the commentators who accompany the world feed are not above blatantly promoting products: one last week discussed the amount of minutes available under the mobile phone deal offered by one sponsor. It makes the Premier League (English football version) look as demure as one of John Major's old maids cycling to communion.

The concern for Modi, and the point ITV will await post-event analysis to ponder, is whether the IPL has a limited reach. Has Modi reached too high too soon? It is reported that the fan base still identify primarily with players, such as Sachin Tendulkar, rather than franchise teams. Most of the franchises do not yet make money and rely on wealthy benefactors.

But for the time being at any rate it is a phenomenon that is noisily attracting attention in some unlikely quarters of the globe. Later this month the Dalai Lama will take in a game, although he is perhaps not representative of the target audience Modi is pursuing.

League leaders: IPL by numbers

563,000 ITV 4's peak figure on 21 March when Chennai Super Kings beat King's XI Punjab in Chennai.

151,000 The average number of viewers who watched Bangladesh against England on Sky Sports on 21 March. ITV 4 had an average of 297,000 for the IPL on the same day.

33,000 The average number of viewers the now defunct Setanta Sports attracted last year for the IPL.

42,000,000 The number of television viewers in India for the opening game of this year's IPL.

$1.6bn The amount paid by Sony to show the IPL in India until 2017. The figure ITV paid to show the event in the UK has not been made public, but is believed to be modest.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform