So IPL is finally going to end on Sunday. The first to breathe a collective sigh of relief will certainly be the general entertainment channels. Just one look at the ratings is enough to see how the cricket juggernaut has battered the primetime band of biggies like Sony and Zee (don’t even ask what it’s done to the smaller players). The latest figures (11 to 17 May) show that out of the top 100 shows in the country, IPL accounts for 40. The No. 1 ‘show’ on the charts (Mumbai versus Chennai, played on 14 May, if you’re interested) had a rating of 7.72 and the serial that did best in that week (Star Plus’s Bidayi) managed a rating of just 3.73.
Interestingly, Shah Rukh Khan’s show, Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain? — which I think is highly entertaining — has been hit quite badly too. In the same week, it notched up a rating of just 2.55. No wonder Sony decided to begin its own big star game show, Dus Ka Dum, only after IPL was over. Clearly, Salman Khan wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate much dum if the show had launched during IPL.
Here’s something else to chew over: when IPL opened to mega ratings (a long time ago, it seems to me as if the cricket matches have been going on forever), the general opinion was that its popularity would dip a little in the middle, and then rise again towards the end of the tournament. As it turns out, nothing of the sort happened. IPL has done well all along. And if the ratings of the semi-finals and final don’t go through the roof, Set Max executives will probably faint out of sheer disbelief (they’ll faint anyway — out of sheer delight).
And as a colleague pointed out, entertainment channels will have to work out a long-term strategy, now that IPL is going to be an annual feature. Every year, for weeks on end, viewership will fall dramatically and new shows will bite the dust.
Maybe they can use that time to schedule re-runs or put out their most boring serials (tough choice since all of them are so boring). Or maybe they can just shut shop and take a long holiday. Better still — their serials can revolve around the IPL.
Think of the possibilities: Tulsi can lose her memory again after being hit on the head with a cricket ball while watching an IPL match. Evil vamps can plot and scheme as to who gets tickets for the matches. Heroines can pine away because they’ve fallen in love with some IPL cricketer. Weddings — since there are so many of them in our serials — can take place in mandaps made up like a cricket pitch. As you can see, I’m really warming up to the theme.
But more seriously, there’s a lesson here for TV channels — not that they’re unaware of it, since it’s hardly a big secret. Television content collapses when faced with India’s two enduring religions: Bollywood and cricket. Put out a big film or film awards function and viewership soars. Put out a big cricket series and it’s the same story. Put out a big serial/reality show, and it may work — or may not.
And finally, IPL will end. But what will start in right earnest very soon is the Big Fight - no, I’m not referring to the NDTV show, but to the imminent TV ratings fight between three top stars: Shah Rukh Khan and his Paanchvi Pass (Star Plus), Salman Khan’s Dus Ka Dum (to start soon on Sony) and Akshay Kumar’s Khatron Ke Khiladi (the desi version of Fear Factor, which will air on the new Viacom 18 general entertainment channel, Colors, when it launches in July). This is going to be a fight even bigger than one movie stars are used to on Fridays. Start placing your bets.