NEW DELHI: Two months of non-stop cricketing competition have not dulled the passion of India's cricket fans as viewing figures for the India Premier League (IPL) have surged ahead alongside IPL merchandise sales.

Data from TAM Media Research, the audience measurement firm, show that the average television viewership rating (TVR) for the opening games of this year's season was 4.4, a 42% increase on the figure for the first five games of last year's competition, IPL7. 

And the Financial Express noted that more people were watching games on Multi Screen Media's Sony Max, which carries a Hindi commentary, than on Sony Six, the dedicated sports channel of the broadcaster which has an English language commentary.

Additionally, MSM's new sports channel Sony Kix is broadcasting games in Tamil and Telugu feeds, while a Bengali feed is available on Sony Aath.

This strategy emulates the approach taken by Star India during the recent ICC Cricket Word Cup, when it offered feeds in four languages to attract more viewers and more advertisers.

The enthusiasm for IPL8 is also being felt by sports merchandisers who are reporting significant increases in orders. According to the Economic Times, sales of IPL merchandise are expected to grow 30% on last year.

And while the greatest volume of sales will take place at match venues, most of the growth will come in ecommerce, as fans in lower tier cities purchase jerseys, caps and armbands.

Partnerships between teams and ecommerce sites are helping boost sales. "The tie-up blends well with the customer segment and our target, which is the male in the age group of 18-35 years," explained Vishal Sharma, vp/operations at Shopclues, the official e-commerce partner for Chennai Super Kings.

"This also helps to increase our reach," he said, adding that Shopclues had seen 200% year-on-year growth in orders from tier II and tier III cities.

Data sourced from Financial Express, Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff