After broadcasting the Fifa World Cup 2022 for free on JioCinema App, Reliance is aiming to try a similar model for the digital broadcast of the 2023 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), according to a report in The Hindu Businessline.
Viacom18, a Reliance venture, purchased digital media rights for the 2023-2027 seasons of IPL for Rs 23,758 crore last year.
The report, citing sources, said Viacom18 is exploring multiple strategies to execute the plan to disrupt the live sports streaming market. It added that the cash-rich Reliance is likely to offer cheap or free product offerings to corner market share. However, it will continue offering subscription packages for a superior viewing experience.
The company is planning to make available the IPL broadcast in regional languages, bundling free IPL viewing with Jio telecom subscription packages or allowing users with rival mobile plans to access some form of free broadcast on JioCinema.
Viacom18 is particularly eyeing the estimated 60 million free-dish homes.
It has said it wants to take popular sporting events to every corner of the country. Its main rival in this category remains Disney+Hotstar, which holds the DTH rights to the IPL.
Analysts believe Viacom18’s free IPL offering could make a dent in its competitor’s viewership. But, they add, the free streaming could bring more viewers, benefitting the public.
Other analysts note that the market disruption could be against the industry’s interests.
Karan Taurani of Elara Capital told the publication, “We believe the Indian Premier League moving away from paid content is a potential threat for TV advertising in the medium term. It would be difficult for Viacom 18-Jio Cinema to recover even 50 per cent of its content acquisition cost via the digital route if the content is free, at least in the near term; however, in the medium to long term, change in consumption habits and growing Smart TV penetration would lead to digital ad revenue moving closer to TV advertising if IPL content remains free of charge.” Business Standard