Through IPL 2011, ESPNcricinfo will be tracking TV ratings using the TAM People Meter, India's leading TV ratings system. This is the fourth installment in the weekly series
The 2011 IPL continued to take a beating in the television ratings stakes, with the average rating for the first 49 games dropping 25.52% from the previous year across six key markets.
The average Television Viewer Rating (TVR), a time-weighted figure which accounts for time spent watching by viewers and the number of viewers, was 3.94 across the cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, down from 5.29 in 2010, according to TAM Sports, a division of TAM Media Research, the leading television ratings agency in India. It is the first time the average ratings for the IPL have fallen below 4.
A report by IIFL Institutional Equities, a brokerage firm, said that tournament ratings have fallen because of a combination of too much cricket and the shuffling of players between the teams, which has diluted fan loyalty. However, Akash Chattopadhyay, an analyst with IIFL who co-wrote the report, expects the ratings to pick up as the tournament enters its final stages. "We are of the opinion that ratings may pick up during the last knock-out match -- to the tune of 8 TVR (television ratings points). But overall, the series would be nowhere close to the first edition."
Another sign of the IPL's loosening grip on the attention of the viewer has been the strength of the Hindi general entertainment genre (Hindi GEC). In years past, the IPL has siphoned women away from their soaps but this season the Hindi entertainment channels' share of total viewership has been steady. It was 26% in the month leading up to the tournament and 25% during the first month of the IPL. Instead, Set Max has stolen viewers away from the sports channels, whose share has dropped from 11% during the World Cup to 1% while the Hindi movie genre, to which Set Max belongs, has seen its share rise from 10 to 18%.
The two matches that were the biggest draws between May 1 and May 7 both involved Mumbai Indians. Their win over Pune Warriors had the highest rating of 5.39, with 21 million people tuning in to watch, suggesting that a strong regional rivalry could develop between the teams. The second most popular game was Mumbai's win over Delhi Daredevils that knocked the latter out of the race for the play-offs. It had a TVR of 4.95, and also drew 21 million viewers.
The least popular game over the last week was Chennai Super Kings' trouncing of Rajasthan Royals that was surrounded by the controversy over the selection of the pitch for the game. It was watched by 12 million and had a TVR of just 2.09.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo