Star gets record viewing figures for Cricket World Cup as Sky 'considers FTA final'
Star India, the Indian broadcaster, achieved a reach of 269 million viewers and record impressions for its coverage of the first week of the 2019 Men’s Cricket World Cup presently taking place in England and Wales.
Figures from India’s Broadcast Audience Research Council show that the opening seven days of the tournament registered 107.2 million average impressions, the most ever for an International Cricket Council event.
The Star Sports channels pulled in 180 million viewers for India’s opening match of the tournament, a victory over South Africa, on 5 June.
Star is the ICC’s global broadcast partner, in a deal running to 2023, and has been providing live television coverage of World Cup matches in its home market in seven languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali and Malayalam (opening fixture and India games only).
This is complemented by streaming on OTT service Hotstar.
The coverage has been accompanied by a marketing campaign (#CricketKaCrown), curated programming and on-ground activation across cities (‘Le Jayenge’) as part of efforts to engage with fans.
The viewing figures were issued in the same week that it was revealed that Star has received approval from the Indian government’s ministry of information and broadcasting to launch Star Sports 1 Malayalam.
The dedicated Malayalam channel missed a deadline to be on air for the Cricket World Cup, but is now expected to go on air for the Pro Kabaddi League on 20 July.
There are already five regional language Star Sports 1 channels, Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Bangla, the last of which launched on 6 March.
The second week of the Cricket World Cup has been blighted by rain, which has resulted in three fixtures, including India’s match against New Zealand yesterday, being called off.
The abandonments have prompted criticism of the ICC for not having reserve days for group fixtures, but this has been rejected by the governing body, which cited the logistics involved.
Sunday features one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament as India take on neighbours and arch-rivals Pakistan in Manchester and it has been reported that Star will earn Rs300 million ($4.3 million) in advertising revenues from that game alone.
Some 85 per cent of the inventory was reserved for broadcast sponsors and it is understood that the remaining 10-second spots are costing up to Rs3 million, compared with the basic price for the World Cup of between Rs600,000 and Rs650,000.
Slots for India matches before the semi-final stage are said to cost between Rs1 million and Rs1.2 million.
The India-Pakistan match at the 2015 World Cup was watched by 288 million viewers in India and their meetings are all the more anticipated given that, for political and security reasons, the two teams have not been contesting bilateral series in recent years.
There were 500,000 requests for tickets for this weekend’s game at the 26,000-capacity Old Trafford ground, and prices of up to $6,000 are being demanded on resale websites.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Sky, the UK pay-television broadcaster, is considering showing the Cricket World Cup final on a free-to-air platform.
Sky holds exclusive live rights to the tournament in its home market, but senior executives are looking into whether the climax at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on 14 July should be opened up to a wider audience, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
The options include televising the match on the Sky One and Sky Sports Mix channels, which do not require a premium subscription, or offering a free day pass to Now TV, the pay-as-you-go OTT service.
Commercial broadcaster Channel 4 is offering daily highlights from the World Cup although there have been complaints about the scheduling with the programmes going out late at night when they are unlikely to attract large audiences.