Beyond the Boundary: The IPL’s Quest for Enhanced Fan Experience
Harshal Tote /
The game of cricket has gone through a lot of changes, from 5 days Test matches to 50 over one-day matches to now 20 overs T20 matches, all in an effort to win more viewers. But perhaps the biggest success story for cricket has to be the Indian Premier League (IPL), with the most numbers of viewers.
The IPL, began its latest season in the same explosive, grand, star studded, glamourous way as ever. IPL always has brought new innovations in the game of cricket, such as DRS, strategic time-out, cheerleaders, impact player and many more. The bidding wars and the theatrics add to to the drama, suspense, excitement and host of other emotions cricket is able to evoke.
IPL above all gave us a chance to see our heroes (from different countries) in the same team, much like Avengers. Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya batting together for Mumbai Indians and Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, Shoaib Akhtar and Chris Gayle in Kolkata Knight Riders team. The line-ups were amazing!! And IPL delivered what it promised. In short, IPL was a blockbuster “paisa vasool” hit.
But in spite of being a huge success and me enjoying the first season, it ended up being the only season that I watched from the beginning to the end. After the first season I watched only a few IPL matches in the seasons that followed, mostly the play-offs and finals. I don’t know if it was becoming too predictable or I just lost interest. After all I did enjoy playing the sport more than watching.
But then I came across these headlines.
It wasn’t just me, IPL was losing viewership!
Cricket is nothing short of a religion in this country. Cricket is the uniting force of our country. Whether it’s people watching a match in the stadium, at home or through the glass door of a restaurant/shop, there’s always a common sense of belonging, brethren and just pure love for the game.
Yet, viewership was diminishing.
In spite of the declining viewership, the Indian giant, Reliance picked the lion’s share of IPL digital broadcasting rights (for 2023-2027) for a total of Rs 23,758 crore which is more than twice from the previous package.
Then why bet on a losing horse?
Well for starters IPL has helped hotstar become the biggest OTT player in India. Jio would want to repeat that success with their own OTT. Also, Jio knows how to disrupt a market. Jio has a playbook from its launch of their telecom services.
And it looks like it worked, again, breaking all IPL broadcasting records in the first weekend itself, Jio turned it around and arguably beat hotstar and TV viewership by a long margin.
To list some of the achievements:
- The app observed a record 2.5 crore downloads in a single day, making it the most downloaded app as the TATA IPL 2023 season began.
- At its peak, over 1.6 crore viewers were watching the opening match live simultaneously.
- The total match views reached an astonishing 50 crore viewers in a day. (To put this into perspective, YouTube records a monthly viewership of approximately 51.4 crores)
- For the first weekend, its per-viewer average time spent per match touched 57 minutes, which was 60% more than the last year
- They attracted 100 million new viewers to the mobile application from tier-1 and tier-2 towns, and rural areas.
So the metrics just for the 1st weekend would look something like this:
|No. of App
|Max. no. of views
in a day
Wow, now those are some impressive stats!!
So as a UX designer and a fan of cricket, I decided to take a look at the app and try and figure out what were they doing differently and this is what I found out.
5 keys to enhancing the fan experience on OTT
1. Leverage the power of free
In India cricket is played on every street and loved the same whether the person is a daily wage worker or a billionaire. By making IPL free to watch on the JioCinema app, the app was able to attract a lot more people than Hotstar and even TV viewers from the previous years. As Hotstar charged ₹299/month for watching IPL, while Star Sports is not available in most of the base packages of DTH providers and charges you an additional ₹22 to ₹200 depending on the package you select, hence they lost out on a large chunk of audience, which Jio managed to capture.
Jio, along the lines of Facebook and Google might have decided to generate revenue using ads for now. We all know from them that it is a win-win model for brands, customers and advertising platforms.
From a user’s perspective: they’re used to watching ads between overs, wickets and innings on TV sets so the ads don’t really cause an hindrance.
From an advertisers perspective: the ads can be much more targeted (data driven) and provides actual data of reach and conversion versus the traditional channels which uses extrapolation to calculate the TRP on TV.
Why does this work?
Providing a free option makes decisions easy and safe for people by taking the risk out of the decision process. And because people often feel the need to justify their decisions—both to themselves and to others—free provides a convincing rationale for their choice.
But once you get them to install or login, it’s all on the content to hook the users to keep them coming back for more. And what better content than IPL. Offering the app for free also allows Jio to capture the untapped market segments in the tier 3 and rural areas, most of whom have experienced the internet for the first time, thanks to Jio mobile network itself.
2. Go Vernacular!
While we have been accustomed to Hindi and English commentary, Jio Cinema had commentary in 12 languages! Notable names include Kedar Jadhav and Dhawal Kulkarni for Marathi; Venkatesh Prasad for Kannada; and to everyone’s surprise, Ravi Kishan, who is a member of the Lok Sabha, was roped in to be a part of the Bhojpuri commentary team.
Why does this work?
In a country such as India, where the language and culture changes after every 200kms, multi-language commentaries help make IPL accessible. By introducing more language options, Jio casted a wider net to catch the untapped tier2 and rural market which accounts for more than 60% of the population.
3. Be the purple cow!
Doordarshan first broadcasted a live telecast of a Test match in 1984, and since then we have upgraded to colored images, 30+ camera angles and action replays, but what hasn’t changed is the broadcaster deciding which camera angle to display. JioCinema has changed that, they now allow users to choose between the main cam, bird’s eye cam, cable cam, stump cam and batter cam.
Why does this work?
First of all it brings a novelty value to attracts users, secondly it gives the user complete control as to which angle they want to watch the match from. The bird’s eye cam actually comes quite close to the stadium view.
4. Get on par with rewards
If there is something people like more than free stuff, then it is more free stuff in form of rewards. Scratch card of Google Pay or the PayTm cashbacks are a good examples of how rewards help. JioCinema has a contest that gives fans a chance to win one car every match.
Why does this work?
One of the reasons most people stop watching a cricket match is either because it is becoming boring or too predictable. JioCinema took that feeling and decided to create a contest around it. You think the game is too predictable then why not answer a simple question like “how many sixes will be hit in the next over?” and get a chance to win a car. The contest is way to get a higher user engagement while watching on the app vis-à-vis passively watching the league on legacy platforms.
5. Cover the basics
There is no arguing that the best way to watch a cricket match is in a stadium and if you can’t get the tickets then on a widescreen TV with friends and family. JioCinema leveraged this and offered the same functionalities on their smart TV app. But to enhance the user experience even further JioCinema broadcasts the match in Asli 4K resolution and a Dolby Atmos surround sound experience.
Why does this work?
The high resolution 4K picture quality clubbed with a surround sound Dolby Atmos experience will make you feel more like you are in a stadium rather than your home. In the previous season, there were a few matches that were broadcasted in 4k but it was limited to people who subscribed for the more expensive Star Sports 4K, but now everyone has access to this. They’re literally bringing the stadium home, without the heat, dirt or crowd at the comfort of your living room.
Getting the stats that JioCinema got in such a small amount of time is no small feat. With internet making its way inwards to the rural India, popularly known as “Bharat”, it’s a great opportunity to get a huge untapped market especially for OTT players who mainly serve the tier 1 and tier 2 cities.
The JioCinema has come a long way to improving it’s fan experience and they have the numbers to prove it. The app had 22 million concurrent users watching MS Dhoni play the last ball to get 5 runs to win, while Hotstar’s peak count was only 8.7 million concurrent users.
As a student of innovation, I downloaded the app to check out their innovative features. As a student of UX, I explored the app to figure out how they enhanced the user experience to increase the engagement and time spent. As an Indian who loves cricket, I stayed to watch Dhoni and see Rinku Singh(KKR) hit 5 sixes in the final 5 balls to win (in all the possible camera angles)