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Disney, Viacom18 set up epic clash for IPL viewers, revenues

Viacom18 fired the first salvo in the war for audiences and advertising revenue by offering IPL fans the opportunity to watch the league for free on its digital platform

Top media buyers said that as both Viacom18 and Disney Star are selling the same property across two different mediums, they will see price rationalization. (Mint)Premium
Top media buyers said that as both Viacom18 and Disney Star are selling the same property across two different mediums, they will see price rationalization. (Mint)

MUMBAI : Disney Star and Viacom18, which have won rights to broadcast and stream the Indian Premier League (IPL), are vying to win over viewers and advertisers for their platforms ahead of the 16th edition of the T20 cricket league, which is set to begin on 31 March.

Viacom18 fired the first salvo in the war for audiences and advertising revenue by offering IPL fans the opportunity to watch the league for free on its digital platform. In response, Disney Star, which has the rights to broadcast IPL matches, is considering airing select IPL matches on its free-to-air channels, according to Ajit Varghese, head of network – ad sales at Disney Star.

“If the advertisers feel that they are not reaching out to certain consumers, who want it (IPL) free, and by free, I mean really free, with no hidden data cost etc., then we are evaluating to showcase some matches on free-to-air channels. But that’s something if there is advertiser demand. We want to be flexible with our advertisers," Varghese said.

Top media buyers said that as both Viacom18 and Disney Star are selling the same property across two different mediums, they will see price rationalization.

Disney Star has retained the TV rights for the IPL for the next five years by bidding 57.5 crore per match, or 23,575 crore in total, while Viacom18 acquired exclusive digital rights for a total of 23,757.5 crore. Effectively, this is the first time that IPL inventory is being sold by two separate entities.

“So far, Disney Star has sold only about 30-35% of its inventory. They are asking for 17-18 lakh for a 10-second spot on average for league matches and 33-35 lakh for the playoffs. Viacom18 has been going around talking about how TV is not the best medium when it comes to effective buying and is offering various packages. We are advising our clients to wait and watch," said a top executive at a media buying agency.

When asked, Varghese declined to comment on the rates but said there is no doubt that the IPL is made for TV viewing.“We do not doubt that the IPL will continue to flourish in India. Now, if I look at where is the mainline viewing of the sport, it is on television, and that’s true for any sport in the country. It is for a large screen viewing, where the community, family or friends watch it together. To me, either you are watching a game in the stadium or watching it live on TV. Everything else is a catch-up," he said.

On the narrative of TV versus digital, he said both formats have their merits, but in India, TV is the cheapest medium. “

I can’t comment on what somebody else is claiming, whether it’s outlandish, gimmicky or whatever. I think every medium gives you a consumer experience. And for us, consumer experience is important. It’s not about which medium is good or bad. All that we are saying is that sports needs a large screen. The reason why TV is the cheapest ecosystem is that it’s cheaper for consumers and cheaper for advertisers. And it’s one of the most effective mediums where brands are built. Even today, after a decade and a half of digital growth in India, advertisers’ spending on digital for pure-play brand building is 1/5 of what it spends on television."

He added that for live sports, television will always be the main medium, at least for a few years coming.

Mint had earlier reported that Disney Star was targeting to reach close to 500 million viewers with IPL this year out of the overall TV viewing universe of 892 million. The pay-TV universe is close to 780 million. Later, Viacom18 claimed that it would reach 550 million users through JioCinema, via mobile and connected TVs.

Incidentally, the number of total unique smartphone users in India is close to 460 million, while the average data limit is less than 1 GB per day. The cost per GB of data is close to 10. Experts point out that streaming one match can consume as much as 3.6GB on standard definition, 10.6GB on high definition and 26.6GB on a 4K device.“Cricket in India is a religion, and consumers already know where to access it. When it comes to IPL, most of the matches are during the primetime viewing at home," added Varghese.

“Also, TV is the cheapest way of reaching a consumer. For 38, you can get Star Sports for entire two months of IPL. For the same amount, you get 3-4 GB of data, which you will consume on watching one match digitally. So, at the cost of one match of IPL on digital, you can watch the entire two months of the series on television. I think consumers are absolutely wise enough to understand where they should experience it. Yes, there are different sets of consumers, and some will want a different experience, which is why our job is to enrich and enhance that experience."

While Viacom18 is offering many new features, including multiple languages, 34 camera feeds, 4K and an immersive experience, Disney Star has also increased the number of channels and feeds for the coverage and is offering customized solutions to its clients.

“We are not just selling a medium, but helping a media planner to justify a client’s budget, finding them plans that can help the clients grow their business. I think it’s a win-win deal. I agree that, traditionally, cricket was brought in a certain way, where one had to be a sponsor or a big spender. What we are doing this time is slightly different. We have the largest number of channel bouquets, where we are going to show the IPL. We are introducing new feeds in regional; we are overtly asking advertisers to choose between a national feed or a regional feed and make sure that they spend the money where they get the best bang for the buck or where their audiences are. We are making more customized solutions, creating many more innovations for brands," Varghese said.

Advertisers, he said, can decide to advertise for the entire 74 matches, or some of the matches, all the feeds or specific feeds, HD or SD or both, all depending on their budgets.

“Compared to 300-400 advertisers we used to talk to earlier, we are now talking to 500 to 700 clients," he said.

Meanwhile, media buyers are being cautious and playing the wait-and-watch game, as the two networks are expected to lose anywhere between 3,000 crore and 3,500 crore from IPL this year.

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Updated: 01 Mar 2023, 06:21 AM IST
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