Star India has claimed that the viewership for IPL 2018 in the first week has been the highest-ever in the decade-long history of the tournament. Interestingly, as much as 22% of the total views came from Star’s digital undertaking Hotstar, which live streams the matches.

According to Star, nearly 371 million viewers tuned in to watch IPL between April 7 and 13 across its offerings: 288.4 million watched the tournament on its 10 TV channels and 82.4 million on Hotstar. These figures for Hotstar show a growth of 76% as compared to last year, Star India added. Numbers for last year’s viewership were not released.

In September last year, Star India has won global digital and TV rights for the next five years, outbidding competitors like Jio and Sony Pictures by putting up ₹16,347.50 crore in a consolidated bid for rights across these categories. From 2018 to 2022, Star will have exclusive broadcasting rights for the league.

IPL on Hotstar

The digital streaming platform offers IPL viewing in at least six regional languages: Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Bengali. This expansion of vernacular language coverage could be one of the reasons for its popularity. The platform has been pushing to monetise the tournament’s viewership, even before it began. Towards the end of March, Hotstar launched the beta version of a self-service ad tool to facilitate photo and video ad campaigns. The company said that “Hotstar AdServe” would allow small and medium-sized companies to harness the power of digital video at scale. The beta version only allowed advertising for IPL 2018.

Similarly, Hotstar announced a subscription tier just for viewing for live sports programmes. The offer included cricket (IPL 2018, Asia Cup 2018), football (Premier League, Bundesliga, I-League, Indian Super League, AFC Cup), tennis (Wimbledon, French Open, US Open), kabaddi (Pro Kabaddi, Kabaddi Nationals), and others (Formula 1, Badminton World Championships) for an annual fee of Rs 299.

The streaming platform has also partnered Airtel and Jio to provide the IPL live feed free. Non-Airtel and Jio customers will be able to see 10 minutes of live IPL free only.

Siladitya adds: It must be noted that a significant factor contributing to higher viewership this year on Hotstar may have to do with the fact that the matches are being simulcast live alongside the TV broadcast. Last year the Hotstar feed ran at a 5-minute delay compared to the TV feed as the rights were structured to put the TV broadcaster at an advantage. Sports as a broadcast commodity is heavily sensitive to time delays, a delay of five minutes must have made the digital feed less desirable to watch as it takes away the suspense of watching live sport.