The 2019 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) got underway last weekend and preliminary data suggests that the world’s biggest cricket tournament has already set records for viewership and reach.

Broadcaster Star India holds the media rights to the event and said that its 24 channels reached 219 million viewers across the country for the first three matches, the Economic Times reported.

Citing BARC PreView data, which allows subscribers to access information about a specific event three days after it is broadcast, Star India said that represented an increase of almost a third (31%) over the previous year.

“We are very excited with the initial numbers of the opening weekend, which shows that this is going to be the biggest IPL ever, as promised by Star,” said Gautam Thakar, CEO of Star Sports.

He added that average impressions for the first three days were 105 million, an increase of 29% on last year. BARC defines impressions as the number of individuals of a target audience, averaged across minutes.

“The investments made this year, including a customised family feed on Star Gold, a regional sports channels launch and [a] strong marketing campaign has worked for us,” Thakar explained in comments reported by Live Mint.

It also appears that a localisation and regional languages strategy is paying dividends because reach in Hindi-speaking markets grew by 30% to 79 million on the opening day, compared with 60 million a year ago, while reach increased 20% in the south for the match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru.

Apart from Hindi and English, Star India also has channels broadcasting in Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu, which is helping to expand its reach into more rural areas of the country.

“The on-ground work on channel distribution is improving every day,” said Thakar. “We feel that IPL will set the tone for [the] World Cup which is a bigger property in terms of reach. The viewership momentum will continue, the advertisers will be delighted and there will [be] great months of cricket going forward.”

Sourced from Economic Times, Live Mint; additional content by WARC staff