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Disney-Star and Viacom at loggerheads over IPL
Disney-Star is aiming to more than double its advertiser count for the 2023 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), in a year the network owning the marquee T20 tournament’s TV rights will lock horns with rival Viacom18 in a never-before-seen broadcasting war on television and digital.
The two companies will compete for a share of the IPL’s viewership and advertising.
The Reliance-backed Viacom18, which has the digital rights of IPL for five years beginning this season, was the first to get off the mark, announcing that it would stream the cricket league for free this year on JioCinema, its over-the-top platform, in a move that is likely to upend the domestic broadcasting market.
Viacom18 also proposed to raise the bar in programming, tech engagement and advertising, Anil Jayaraj, chief executive officer, Viacom18 Sports, had told Business Standard earlier, as it sought to provide easy access and affordability to consumers in multiple languages across India.
Now, Disney-Star, which has the IPL TV rights also for 2023-2027, has unveiled its advertising strategy for the T20 league this year. It will include targeting 550-700 advertisers, which is more than twice the number that the broadcaster had targeted in previous editions, Ajit Varghese, head, network ad sales, Disney-Star, said in a conversation with Business Standard.
“We would normally have around 200-250 advertisers on IPL every year. This year, however, we are reaching out to more than double that number at 550-700 advertisers, who we hope will find value in cricket,” Varghese said.
The ad strategy will include targeting not only large and medium advertisers, who are “cricket loyalists” — from fast-moving consumer goods to durable and electronics, telecom, retail and hospitality among other sectors — but also internet-based businesses and small enterprises that have found investments on cricket prohibitive in the past.
The endeavour, Varghese explained, was to provide “tailor-made solutions” for advertisers to ensure they derived a meaningful return on their investment in the T20 tournament, which coincides with the crucial summer and holiday period for many companies across categories.
Disney-Star is also positioning IPL as a “big-screen experience” where families and friends can come together over a game of cricket, much the way football is consumed in Europe and other parts of the world.
The aim is to reach 500 million viewers this year through IPL on Disney-Star, higher than the roughly 400 million that the network has reached in previous editions, according to industry executives.
Disney-Star will also broadcast the tournament in over 10 language feeds across 22 channels of the network, including 17 channels of Star Sports.
Varghese said that the broadcaster had loaded the IPL programming this year with brand and content integrations, in-studio fan experiences, Star Sports Metaverse (which is a virtual environment for fan engagement), use of teleportation technology and magic windows to enhance the visual experience on screen, backed by a long line-up of commentators as well as two additional high definition (HD) feeds in Tamil and Telugu apart from the existing Hindi and English HD feeds to appeal to a cross-section.
“Cricket is a time-tested strategy for reach and frequency. It is also one of the most efficient ecosystems.
What we are also seeing is that Indian cricket is doing well on television. There is a growth of around 35-45 per cent in terms of viewership ratings for Indian cricket this year versus last year, according to BARC data. This tells us that Indian cricket is on a rise from a viewership perspective, which is a good sign as we get into the IPL season in a month from now,” Varghese said.
Both Disney-Star and Viacom18 will also aggressively market various initiatives as IPL draws near. Both broadcasters will have 360-degree marketing campaigns, leveraging print, digital and television to apprise viewers of what they have in store for the T20 extravaganza this year. Business Standard