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Amid a packed cricket season, will India-England Test series garner the eyeballs?

India has a packed season of cricket ahead. While the India Vs Sri Lanka series is current on, the 5-Test India Vs England series will get underway from August 4, 2021. This will be followed by the ICC T20 World Cup, which will be held in Oman and UAE between October 17 and November 14. In between that, the remainder of the Indian Premier League 2021 tournament will be held in the UAE between September 19 and October 15, 2021.

A Test series is increasingly becoming a rarity in this age of T20 and ODI championships. But the Indian team’s performance in the recent times has the fans excited. Team India has been on a high after winning the Australia series in Australia and followed by the India-England ODI series in India early this year. These wins enabled the Men in Blue to qualify for the World Test Championship. However, India’s defeat in the World Test Championship has disappointed the fans and there are doubts being raised over India’s prospects against England in the forthcoming Test series, which comprise 5 Test matches.

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The India-Australia series, especially the test matches, piqued the interest of cricket enthusiasts, registering close to 75 million viewers on Sony Sports TV channels, as informed by Rajesh Kaul, Chief Revenue Officer, Distribution and Head, Sports Business, Sony Pictures Networks India. The final day of the fifth Test match achieved one of highest ratings for a test match on Australian soil.

As per industry reports, the India-England Test series held earlier this year also witnessed the highest Test match viewership in the last five years, registering a viewership of 1.3 million average minute audience (AMA).

Given, the historical performance of Team India in English conditions and the kind of greenish pitches that are going to be on offer this time, one can expect a tough series for Team India. Thulasi Krishnan, VP - Account Management, OMD Mudramax, observed, “From a viewership point of view, Test cricket viewership in India is very limited and ardent followers account for only 15-20% of the total IPL viewership. Hence, the Test match ratings are always lower than the T20 cricket ratings. However, cricket fans keep track of the happenings from time to time and are more interested to know what happened in a session in a nutshell. Hence, Pre-Mid-Post live segments on Test Cricket become important for advertisers to reach those incremental viewers watching these segments with higher attention levels.”

Overall, spending on the India-England Test series will be totally a subjective question for each brand, given the availability of budget, market sentiment, economy, government policies, marketing objectives, consumer behaviour, and not just cricket and viewership alone.

Krishnan further said, “It will be hard to expect new advertisers for the India Vs England Test series. The advertisers will try to save the budget for the all important festive season to make up for the lost first quarter of this financial year. They will expect ROIs for every penny spent across all categories. Festival sales won’t be that easier this time unlike last year. The Government hasn’t pumped in enough money into the economy as expected. Inflation is rising. People lost jobs and exhausted the savings on health. Kids’ education has become priority. This pandemic has changed the consumers’ spending pattern upside down.”

While stating that India’s loss in the World Test Cricket championship would not have an impact on the performance of the team in the upcoming series, Linu John, VP, Media Planning, Zenith, added that the July-Nov 2021 period will see a lot of cricket matches starting with the India Vs Sri Lanka series and followed by the India Vs England series and then IPL and the ICC T20 World Cup.”

She added, “Any cricket which is India Vs England is among the best matches that we get to see, but the ratings are high when it is played in India. Had the series been held at a different time, the impact would have been higher in terms of viewership and advertising presence. However, immediately after India Vs England, we have the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has seen success in terms of presence during the festive period. Last year, IPL saw the highest viewership ever, so the same is expected for 2021 as well. Also, the ICC World Cup is one of the finest cricketing series, hence the September-November period will have the peak viewership for cricket.”

According to Linu John, IPL and WC will be the highest impact available for advertising during the festive period, so brands will bank the festive budgets for presence on either/ both the series.

The trend for Test matches when played abroad is robust. Sudu, a Business Consultant and Value Investor, noted that the recently concluded India Vs Australia series of four Test matches delivered a reach of 76.9 million in the universe and about 34 million in 15+ Males ABC audience.

He, therefore, felt the trend for following cricket would continue for international matches. “India is a young country which is passionate about cricket. International cricket offers a varied palette and international locales, good commentary, etc. The Test series in England will be no different, but there are chances of monsoon during this period, which might impact live cricket. Test has its own fan following and there will be auto, mobile phone, e-wallets, edutech, tyres, online, water purifiers, pharma and health companies that will leverage cricket. Brand launches and other sustenance and category led activities will continue to harvest cricket,” Sudu further said.

(Edited and additional inputs by Shanta Saikia.)


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