Home/ Sports / Cricket News/  Ambani to stream IPL for free after paying $2.7 billion

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate will stream Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket games for free, according to people familiar with the matter, using its exclusive rights to one of the world’s most-watched sporting events to challenge Walt Disney Co. and Amazon.com Inc. in India’s booming media market.

Viacom18 Media Pvt., the joint venture between Paramount Global and Ambani’s conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd, licensed the IPL streaming rights last year for $2.7 billion, fending off competitors Disney and Sony Group Corp. Disney previously had those rights, and used them to drive subscribers to its streaming service, Disney+ Hotstar.

Viacom18 is taking a different approach, offering the games to as many people as possible in order to generate advertising sales, said the people, who declined to be identified because the move hasn’t been announced publicly. Free media services such as Google and Facebook generate billions of dollars in advertising sales in the country, and have had far more success than paid premium products like Netflix. 

Viacom18 executives have estimated that an audience in excess of 550 million will watch the weeks-long IPL games, which will boost the conglomerate’s technology and internet ambitions, ranging from online retail to entertainment.  

This year’s series of matches, each lasting a relatively short three hours in length, will kick off on 31 March and go on for nearly eight weeks. Viacom18 will allow users to watch any number of games for any length time on any internet-connected device.

It’s a familiar playbook for Reliance, which offered mobile service at prices far below the competition, signing up hundreds of millions of customers and putting rivals out of business. Ambani’s conglomerate owns Reliance Jio, the country’s largest telecom operator by market share, closing in on a half-billion subscribers.

The five-year IPL contract gives it a reach like no other to capitalize on a tournament described as the Super Bowl of cricket.

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Updated: 23 Feb 2023, 12:45 AM IST
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