The season finale of Hero Indian Super League 2016 on December 18th, 2016, turned out to be a grand sporting event with over 54,000 people thronging the stadium in Kochi and 41 million fans tuning in on television to follow the nail biting clash between Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters FC (BARC CS4+, U+R viewership Finale, All Channels). The total number of viewers reached was up +41% as compared to the final of 2015, with viewership in impressions shattering all previous TV & Digital records of the league.
Numbers soared across the nation with Kerala fans leading the way in making ISL the most viewed televised sport event of the year in the state. The season finale overshadowed viewership figures of major sporting events in Kerala, including the India-West Indies 2016 T20 World Cup Semi-finals, Euro 2016 final and FIFA World Cup 2014 final. Similarly, the viewership in West Bengal beat even the IPL 9 finals (BARC, CS 4+, U+R Average Impressions).
Hero ISL received tremendous response across its third edition with a total viewership of 216 million as compared to around 207 million last year (BARC, CS4+, U+R). One of the highlights of the season was the sharp increase in rural India viewership registering a cumulative figure of 101 million, indicating the widespread appeal of the sport. Furthermore, key metro markets like Mumbai and Chennai emerged as one of the top performers this season recording a surge of more than 50% over last year along with a cumulative 20% spike in viewership in Tamil Nadu. This demonstrates the growth of the sport beyond the traditional bastions of football. This, combined with the numbers of the rural region is indicative of the growing penetration of Hero ISL across all belts in India.
Mrs. Nita Ambani, Founder & Chairperson, Football Sports Development Limited remained optimistic on the increasing popularity of Indian football attributing the surge in fans following and team affinity and to “ISL vision”.
Mrs Ambani said, “The overwhelming response from fans is testament to the vision we have for the league, and it reaffirms our faith that the ‘Indian football is moving in right direction’.
“The response from newer markets like Tamil Nadu and Mumbai, and further growth in established markets like West Bengal, Kerala etc shows the appetite for the sport. Stadium attendance, viewership numbers and growth on digital platform this season further encourages us to reset our benchmark for the season ahead,” added Mrs Ambani.
According to a ISL press release, This season recorded a surge of over 25% in overall viewer engagement vis-à-vis ISL 2015. This showcases the enhanced quality of play complemented by new look graphics and the best of experts on the commentary panel, cutting across demographic boundaries and capturing the imagination of a diverse fan base.
2016 edition also took the digital medium by storm registering a doubling of total “watchtime” which was 2.3 times over last year on Hotstar and Jio platform. The phenomenon of the Hero ISL was also visible at the stadiums throughout the season in all ISL club cities, with fan armies and football enthusiasts filling up an average of over 84% seating capacity, the highest across all three seasons.
Mr. Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India said, “The kick-off to the Hero ISL in 2014 signified the birth of a footballing nation. This is a long term journey however we are very encouraged by the incredible fan affinity and increase in followership of the league and the sport in a short span of three years. We had dreamt of the day when Indian footballers would emerge as sporting heroes and this season of the Hero ISL has seen many new stars emerge. Further the quality of play and multi-lingual, high quality broadcast content has delivered record engagement levels amongst fans. The deeper penetration of the league into Urban and Rural India and the explosive growth of digital consumption augurs well for the future of football in India.”