Last year, Times Internet Limited (TIL) won the global Internet, mobile and radio rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) for a period of four years, at a cost of Rs 261.6 crore. And there had been 72 million views last season, which means the average increase in viewership has been 43 per cent year on year. And this year, it expects to reach new heights in online viewership with new innovations and audience interactions integrated with online streaming.
On the home page itself, TIL has created new sections like blogs, team standings, players, Facebook comments and IPL battleground, in addition to last year's sections like video, live matches, teams and news.
"Last year, we just had 10 days to create innovations around online streaming," said Times Internet CEO Rishi Khiani. "But for 2012, we have utilised the whole year to build more interactive features to ensure better audience engagement around this exciting property."
The website has joined hands with AIR and Google for live commentary and YouTube streaming, respectively. While the deal with AIR works on ad-revenue share model, the one with Google is a distribution deal (similar to the previous season of IPL).
It has also introduced wide screen view and HD quality adaptive screening where smooth viewing will be possible even with low Internet speed. "We have made sure that there will not be any buffering even when the Internet speed changes," added Khiani.
The 'IPL schedule' page has been done in a very engaging manner, as a wagon wheel. There is also an interface for interactive video score board that captures video highlights of 6s, 4s and Outs. One can also choose online cheerleaders according to one's preference. In fact, users can have their cheerleaders dance or do a jig at key moments.
Another key feature in this new format is the Battleground â€“ a forum integrated through Facebook for the fans to voice their opinions during a live match. In a free-for-all kind of environment, users can not only post comments but also opt for various activities like throwing tomatoes/eggs, saying 'howzzat' and more. A player fan-o-meter can also measure the popularity of a cricketer according to the number of likes, comments and gifts received from the fans.
A very committed fan might get virtual goodies and even real ones, sent to their mail box, which can be IPL tickets, T-shirts, autographed bats/balls or coffee with a favourite player.
"The video page would also feature interesting video packages of match highlights, fun moments and celebrity moments. Apart from that, one can also follow the latest tweets, get TOI RSS feeds and pre-match shows comprising fun pre-match analyses and phone conversations with players," said Khiani.
The company will also offer apps and streaming for iPads, iPhones and Android devices, with HTML pages for the iPad applications. BlackBerry applications will also be made available, with some charges applicable as per network carriers.
The revenue has increased by more than 40 per cent and it is still growing. We expect to break even this year and we will recover the entire money," he added.