The Indian Premier League (IPL) is India’s most popular annual cricket tournament, and this year it has come to represent a massive fight amongst two companies, Disney Star and Mukesh Ambani’s Viacom18, to be the dominant broadcaster of the event. For the first time ever, both Disney Star and Viacom18 are streaming matches both on television and on digital platforms. Although television viewership of the IPL matches is still higher, Viacom18 is off to a good start with its digital streaming partner JioCinema, which has managed to get 10 crore new viewers and clocked 147 crore video views in the opening weekend – not to mention 5 crore new app downloads during the same period. JioCinema has an impressive line-up of brands that are part of this streaming platform, such as Dream11 (Co-Presenting Sponsor), JioMart (Co-Powered), PhonePe and more.
Walt Disney & Co-owned Star Sports on the other hand, also saw a major spike in viewership with a 47% on-year growth, and a peak concurrency of 1.6 crores. The IPL broadcast rights for the Disney-Star broadcasting have been acquired by them for a staggering Rs 23,575 crore. Star Sports has over 20 crore viewers watching its build-up programming even before the tournament began on the 31st of March, 2021. This broadcasting platform also has an impressive list of sponsors such as Tata Neu, Dream11, Airtel, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and more.
Bloomberg experts express their opinion on the rivalry between Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani as Ambani focuses on consumer retail play by disrupting the digital streaming market, whilst Adani is fixated on arresting wealth erosion that alleged by Hindenburg. Ambani intends to acquire larger advertisers through offering free streaming and the promotion of products from his FMCG range. Amidst the digital streaming game, the impact of smartphone penetration in India – which is at 460 million (half of the nation’s TV penetration) – is also a factor that needs to be taken into account.
The fight for broadcasting this lucrative event between Disney Star and Viacom18 is part of Mukesh Ambani’s plan to establish a dominant position for consumer super apps whilst attracting customers from Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Given the large investments that has been put in this rivalry, it remains to be seen which of these two parties will emerge victorious.