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‘Cricketainment’ working for OTT platforms

In a Nation that worships cricket and entertainment, what can be a bigger win-win opportunity for a streaming platform if its slate has a fair share of both?

Disney+ Hotstar has realising it with the Indian Premier League (IPL), despite its fairly robust entertainment portfolio of original Disney content (such as the Dwayne Johnson film ‘Jungle Cruise’) and critically acclaimed local content, like the Sushmita Sen-led web thriller series ‘Arya’ and Aanand L Rai’s ‘Atrangi Re’, starring Dhanush, Akshay Kumar and Sara Ali Khan.

This past Thursday, during the IPL face-off between Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants, 7.6 million people tuned in to the streamer to watch the death overs before the K.L. Rahul-led side clinched the thriller.

That was clearly an impressive weeknight number, considering the fact that Disney+ Hotstar’s India footprint extends to 45 million subscribers, which, incidentally, is bigger than its North American universe.

Entertainment, clearly, won’t alone be able to drive the numbers that streaming platforms are looking at. A little help from cricket can make a substantial difference.

Disney+ Hotstar, riding on Disney-owned Star India’s Rs 16,347.5-crore media rights deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the 2018-22 cycle, is capitalising on this association by making the viewer engagement more immersive.

It offers Dolby Atmos sound and has a live online voting platform to make each game that much more interactive between the commentators and the fans.

“Disney Star has been committed to elevating the experience of Tata IPL, bringing millions of viewers closer to the game, the heroes, and the action,” Sanjog Gupta, Head of Sports, Disney Star, said. “With fans now being allowed into the stadium, we wanted viewers to get as close to the real feel of the atmosphere at the venues. That is why we chose to produce the Tata IPL 2022 in Dolby Atmos for the first time,” he added.

“The Star Lab (Disney Star’s innovations arm) has also enhanced the presentation of the tournament by deploying augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) across the match coverage and programming initiatives,” Gupta pointed out. “We will also experiment with the world’s first interactive cricket show in the metaverse. It is our ambition to make this the most interactive and immersive season of Tata IPL.”

A number of new players are coming forward to join the streaming race. These entities not only include typical OTT streaming platforms, but also sports clubs, federations, leagues and businesses that previously gave out rights to other broadcasters.

It is estimated that in India alone, sports broadcasting rights are set to soar to $1.3 billion by 2024, from $1.1b in as recently as 2019. The revenue from TV viewership and sports streaming solutions, meanwhile, has shot up to the equivalent of $5.2 billion.

It appears that more marriages of entertainment and sports will now be solemnised across the OTT universe in the months and years to come. Glam Sham

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