With the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tourney scandal getting murkier by the day, tarnishing the game, the impact is visible on the ratings.
While viewers are still watching the matches in stadia, there is a sharp 14 per cent drop in the television ratings (TVR) in the evening matches before and after the scam broke.
TAM viewership data for the week ended May 18 (sourced from SET Max) showed the average TVR of the four evening matches played before May 16 (when the first arrests were made), was 3.65 in the all-India market. The average for the three games played in the evening after the news of spot fixing had dropped to 3.13.
Similarly, the Hindi-speaking markets (HSM) also saw a 14 per cent drop in the average ratings, from a 3.72 TVR to 3.2 TVR.
While the drop seems steep, Neeraj Vyas, senior vice-president and business head of SET Max, the official broadcaster of IPL, said: "If you take the overall ratings on the tournament so far, there is no drastic rise or fall."
The average TVR has been 2.9 and 3.0 for the all-India and HSM markets, respectively. However, this also contains the average of afternoon matches, which generally rate low.
Has it impacted the business? Vyas answered, "We have not received any cancellations or backouts from any of our advertisers or agencies. The stadiums are also full. I don't see much impact."
However, he added the allegations were serious and some cleaning-up was required. "While the impact is not seen, it doesn't mean it's not serious. This mess has to be cleaned."
The ongoing sixth season of IPL has been one of the best for the broadcaster, Multi Screen Media, which had managed the largest number of sponsors so far for this edition. While there was a drop in ratings compared to previous years, it was more because of the distribution issues. However, the scandal, coming towards the end of the league (the tourney ends this week), has rocked the IPL.
The cash-cum-controversy rich T20 league has been in the news every season, sometimes for the wrong reasons. This time, the issues were more than just about franchise agreements or rave parties. This time, one national squad player, S Sreesanth, was arrested with two other teammates for spot-fixing, putting many players and teams under the scanner. Now the heat is on the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India himself, as his own son-in-law is being summoned for connections with Vindoo Dara Singh, arrested yesterday for betting.
However, media agencies' executives are still giving a thumbs-up to the tournament. "I don't think there will be any dramatic impact on the ratings. This whole issue is bigger for the media than for the public. If you see the format, very few people watch the full match, so the impact on ratings won't be much. And, viewers have also understood it is more about players, and whole teams are not involved," said T Gangadhar, managing director of media agency MEC India.
He added there was no other comparable property for advertisers to reach to the masses.