When the valuation of the Indian Premier League (IPL) slipped from $4.13 billion (about Rs 2,650 crore) in 2010 to $3.67 billion (about Rs 18,350 crore), naysayers predicted the end of IPL's best days, writing off the Twenty20 tournament as a depreciating asset.
This year, their case was strengthened when, for the first 27 matches of the season, IPL was able to garner average television ratings of about 3.53, down from 3.88 a year ago, according to data from TAM Sports, a unit of TV viewing ratings agency TAM Media Research.
However, look closer and the argument falls flat. For, according to mapped data available till now, in the very first week of the tournament (including the opening ceremony), the official Youtube-IPL website recorded 13.7 million views. This is a jump of about 56 per cent vis-a-vis the 8.8 million viewers who watched IPL on the internet in its previous edition.
"This is the third year of our association with live streaming of IPL and the viewership numbers clearly indicate a distributed media consumption pattern of Indian consumers," said Praveen Sharma, head of media sales, Google India.
Ask tech experts and the trend is clear: Migration from traditional to non-traditional modes of watching entertainment sports is underway. According to Mahesh Murthy, founder of Pinstorm, this also means advertisement models will see a change going forward.
"Increasingly, with the penetration of smartphones and tablets, more viewers will migrate from the television to new devices to view games. The IPL ratings are symptomatic of this trend," Murthy explained.
The numbers support Murthy's theory. According to data available from Airtel, which provides users with content support, additions have happened across slots for new viewers, viewing sessions, and minutes of usage.
"While the number of new viewers has increased 335 per cent over last year, the viewing sessions and the minutes of usage have gone up 552 per cent and 600 per cent respectively," said an Airtel spokesperson.
On a different metric, data from Apalya Technologies, the official streaming partner for IPL this season, there are 250,000 official subscribers of IPL this season. The views have grown five times, to 1.4 million, over just the first nine matches, vis-a-vis 0.3 million views last year.
The franchisees themselves are not unaware of the phenomenon of increase in cyberspace fan following. Kolkata Knight Riders, for example, has tied up with an official online partner, Freecultur, for the sale of its merchandise on the internet.
"It makes business sense for franchisees to take their merchandise online because of the migration of viewers to the new platform. We have created official merchandise to be sold online at Freecultur, and expect at least hundreds of thousands of sales before the season is over," said Freecultr CEO Sujal Shah.
The Internet and Mobile Association of India pegs the rise in smartphones penetration in the country from four per cent in 2009 to 15 per cent in 2013.
Apps have also been witness to the changing trend. A host of apps - IPL 2012, IPL 2012 for Samsung Bada phones, PlayUp for iOS and Android, the official IPL app for Blackberry phones, and IPL Live streaming free for Android - are available for smartphones.
While data for the number of downloads for each of these apps is not available yet, conservative estimates peg these numbers running into a few thousands for each.