Shailesh Kapoor: Never Underestimate Cricket

18 Oct,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


The death of the One-Day International (ODI) cricket format has been debated at length over the last few years, with the advent of T20 in general and the IPL in particular. Till about a decade ago, channels would actively programme to avoid a key event (such as an episode with a turning point, a big movie or any other special) to clash an India ODI. Over time, with cricket ratings dropping, this became less of a concern.


But what happened this Wednesday is a lesson to all – Never underestimate cricket. You never know when it will surprise you.


Most readers would know that India annihilated Australia on Wednesday in perhaps the most ruthless run chase in ODI history. The match day fell on a semi-holiday, on account of Bakri Eid. Two important media events (and there could be others too that I’m not aware of) had planned to make use of the same holiday.


Times Now had a marathon five-hour special (starting at 6pm) to reveal the results of their latest exit poll on the 2014 General Elections. And on the Bollywood side, Akshay Kumar-starrer Boss released this Wednesday, instead of a usual Friday release. Both were heavily-promoted events in their respective domains. When scheduling, neither would have realized that a giant iceberg would hit them between 7 and 9pm.


Boss’ report card is out. The film collected about Rs. 120 million nett on the domestic box-office on its first day, at least 25 million short of what it would have scored if the game had ended up being like the one-sided first ODI on Sunday. Times Now will know the impact next week when the ratings are released, but to their advantage, the chase was so emphatic that it all ended with 6.5 overs to spare, and hence ahead of time too, around when Arnab Goswami makes his regular appearance every night. Talk about silver lining!


The series announced itself with last week’s sole T20, which proved like a dress rehearsal to Wednesday’s second ODI. Most primetime GEC programmes showed a 10-30% drop in their viewership that night, in the ratings that were released yesterday. The message was clear: This is going to one good series, unlike those meaningless India-Sri Lanka ones. Underestimate at your own risk!


Five more ODIs still to go, and then Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test match, followed by a South Africa series… we are in for one of the most high-profile cricket seasons in a while. This is what cricket is truly capable of, not what we see in those round-the-clock moneymaking games that have a recall of less than a week.


There is another related aspect worth mentioning – The rise of ‘event programming’. As the interest with ongoing serials continue to wane, disruptive content is set to enjoy even higher appeal in the days to come. We can expect movie premieres like Chennai Express, big cricket matches like the ones this winter, season openers and finales of top reality shows, and other such ‘events’ to garner a higher share of viewership.


Meanwhile, cricket has proven itself again. Let the naysayers be silent for a while now.


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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