In line with the rise of non-cricket sporting events in India, the recently concluded Asian Games, clocked a viewership of 112 million over two weeks (August 18 -31) with an average per day viewership of eight million as per data shared by official broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt Ltd.
The numbers, provided by TV viewership measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc), represent viewers across rural and urban India above two years of age across nine channels including Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 3, Sony ESPN and state broadcaster DD Sports.
Viewership data for the last two days of Asian Games – September 1 and 2 September – are still not out. The 18th Asian Games held in Jakarta and Palembang saw India’s best medal tally with 69 medals compared to 57 and 65 in 2014 (Incheon) and 2010 (Guangzhou), respectively.
Previous viewership of Asian Games were significantly lower at 40.9 million and 32.6 million in 2014 and 2010, respectively. However, these numbers, measured by TV ratings agency TAM, were for a different universe and hence no direct comparison can be made.
Daily viewership for the Jakarta Games has increased three times since 2014 from 2.6 million to 8 million. In comparison with the viewership of 2016 Rio Olympics and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games earlier this year, Asian Games fall in the middle.
While Rio Olympics were seen by 201 million Indians, Commonwealth Games clocked 88.4 million viewers. Both these numbers are for live coverage and include Doordarshan’s sports channel.
In 2018 itself, Asian Games have trumped the overall viewership of both the FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon. Live broadcast of FIFA World Cup matches saw 110 million viewers while Wimbledon recorded 19 million viewers over two weeks. The Indian Premier League is of course far ahead — 530 million over 51 days.
“The spread of states from where the winners come and the variety of new disciplines in which medals have been scored is quite likely the reason for the rise in viewership in India,” said Harish Krishnamachar, co-founder, Sportoid, a sports consultancy firm. Of the 69 medals India won, athletescame from 21 states and Union Territories (UTs).
“Asian Games have a different kind of importance in the sporting landscape. Since national pride is involved, it has different kind of emotions attached that makes it stand out,” said Rajesh Kaul, head for the sports business and chief revenue officer (distribution) at Sony Pictures Networks India.
“The sports market in India is evolving, the overall audience taste for sports properties has changed phenomenally over the last couple of years. Five to seven years back we were a completely cricket dominated country now it is clearly moving towards a multi-sport viewing culture, added Kaul.
Most viewed events at the Asian Games included athletics, badminton and wrestling at 38.1 million, 29.2 million and 27.4 million, respectively. Athletics contributed 19 medals to India’s overall tally. While the shuttlers won a silver and a bronze, the wrestlers clinched three, including two gold medals.