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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Sacha Baron Cohen is definitely not involved in the Freddie Mercury biopic, Brian May has confirmed
film
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
News
news
News
Boyband star Brian Harvey is on benefits and on the verge of homelessness
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor