IPL further exposes ‘Crisis Of Entertainment’

20 Apr,2018


By Shailesh Kapoor


The first IPL ratings are out, and they look good. Early digital numbers released by Hotstar are healthy too. In a long tournament such as IPL, one has to wait for 3-4 weeks before meaningfully comparing to the previous years and arriving at conclusions, but this could be one of the best IPLs ever in terms of viewership.


Several close and high-scoring matches, two cornerstones of IPL match-level ratings, in the first week helped the league’s cause. It will be difficult to sustain that kind of luck over seven weeks. High-scoring matches may be easier to come, but the second week has already started seeing some one-sided games.


But cricketing factors apart, the main reason why I’m backing this year’s IPL to be top-of-the-pile on viewership is the environment of television content today. Deep analysis of the last 1-2 years of content would suggest that ‘short-format’ content, ranging from movies to T20 to reality shows to episodic fiction (e.g. comedy) has grown on television.


Given the clutter and the distractions, this rise of ‘short-format’ content should only be evident. Yet, it’s a format GECs across languages, including Hindi, have been reluctant to adopt. There have been some attempts, largely limited to the weekends. But staple content on the GECs are daily soaps, where you need to commit to a show and characters for a period ranging from a minimum of 6-12 months to a maximum of 6-12 years!


Hindi GEC ratings dropped further (they drop every other month, and then, find a new low again) in the first week of IPL. The 150-GRP mark in Urban HSM, till as recently as a year ago, was only good enough to be the no. 3 or the no. 4 channel. Today, the top channels are operating in the 130s.


Even as that happens, films like Bahubali 2, Golmaal Again, Judwaa 2 and the likes continue to deliver, holding onto their high ratings in their multiple runs. Here’s a staggering stat: Hindi Movie Channel (HMC) genre ratings were 55% of Hindi GEC genre ratings at the same time last year. Today, HMC stands at 72% of Hindi GEC.


Why then are mass Hindi movies not “general entertainment” and have been made off-limits for the GECs (except a rare weekend appearance) is beyond any intuitive understanding. But that’s a topic for another


Even as theatrical business struggles in general (despite a very good first quarter this year), and digital content is still finding its footing, television should have emerged as the only stable, reliable source of consistent entertainment. I take no pleasure to say this, but Hindi (and now even English) news channels often have more entertainment on their prime time than Hindi GECs today. And with all the issues of sensitivity and propriety that plague the former, this surely cannot be a happy sign.


By the end of this year’s IPL, we should know with more certainty how deep is this ‘crisis of entertainment’. The bigger question is: Who’s going to fix it?



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