Home / News / India /  Liquor ads run on OTT in absence of advertising code

NEW DELHI: Viewers of the England-Pakistan cricket match were in for a surprise on Friday evening when the streaming platform SonyLiv flashed commercials for liquor brands between breaks. In the absence of advertising regulations, alcohol brands, prohibited from advertising on television and in print, seem to be having a free run on over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms.

Liquor firm Diageo India piggybacked on cricket viewership to showcase its 180 ml pocket-size flasks called 'Hipsters' launched last year for scotch whiskey brands Black Dog, Black & White and Vat 69. The ad, with disclaimer stating not to be shared with people below legal drinking age, shows young consumers pouring whiskey from a flask to make a chilled drink at multiple occasions when the drink can be enjoyed.

SonyLiv is owned by Sony Pictures Networks that operates a clutch of entertainment and sports TV channels.

Diageo India said that it works closely with OTT channels to agree on communication content and audience, in addition to following a strong set of self-regulatory practices. "It is in accordance with the Diageo Marketing Code and Diageo Digital Guidelines, that guide for all communications that go out across any platform," said a company spokesperson in an emailed response to Mint.

SonyLiv did not respond to Mint's queries.

Early last year, nine video streaming players including Hotstar, Voot, ZEE5, Arre, SonyLIV, ALT Balaji, Reliance Jio, Netflix and Eros Now had signed up to adopt a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). The code prohibited content around child pornography, acts of terrorism and disrespect to national symbols, among others, but it did not touch upon advertising on these platforms.

Advertising industry watchdog Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said that if the streaming platforms are running advertisements for product categories that may be legally prohibited from advertising such as liquor, such matters are best examined and dealt with by the concerned regulators. For alcoholic beverages, for instance, it would be state excise or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

"Such matters are, therefore, beyond ASCI's remit. The self- regulation code is not in competition with law and its guidelines are designed only to complement legal controls and not to usurp or replace them," said Shweta Purandare, secretary-general, ASCI.

Unlike traditional media like films or TV, the OTT sector currently does not have any specific advertising guidelines or restrictions for any content which is created as an original for OTT.

“However, with the advent of the self-regulation codes where multiple OTT players have voluntarily become signatories, it will not be long before these players also start applying guidelines for advertising on their platforms," said Chandrima Mitra, partner at law firm DSK Legal.

(Suneera Tandon contributed to this story)

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