Stream IPL For Free: Why Ambani’s Brave Bet Is Most Likely To Pay Off

  • IPL is merely a $2.7 billion excuse, for the focus is on the Jio ecosystem with revenue potential of billions and billions of dollars. 
  • Tushar GuptaThursday, February 23, 2023 5:45 am IST
    Indian Premiere League (Representative Image)
    Indian Premiere League (Representative Image)

    In June last year, when the Indian Premiere League (IPL) media rights were auctioned, not many could decode the rationale behind Reliance going for both Bundle B and Bundle C.

    Bundle B is exclusive digital rights for all IPL games and Bundle C is exclusive digital rights for four finals, thirteen evening games on double-header days, and the opening game. 

    In fact, Reliance paid more than double the base price per match for Bundle C. Together, Reliance paid more than Rs 23,500 crore for both the bundles, giving them the streaming dominance for the next five years (2023-2027).

    Ideally, Reliance (Viacom 18, Voot) after winning Bundle B (digital rights) could have stepped back, but instead, they went all in for exclusivity, unwilling to share the streaming rights for games in Bundle C with any other company.

    There were rumours about Disney wanting to go for Bundle C, but they were upstaged by the Indian giant. However, Disney will continue to have the television rights for the IPL for the next five years, but now, they’d have to compete with Reliance that has decided to go for free streaming of the IPL. 

    Reliance’s decision to allow free streaming of the IPL on any device connected to the internet explains why they were willing to pay twice the base price for Bundle C.

    Also, where does it leave Disney in the television game, given the launch of Jio Media Cable (similar to Amazon Firestick) is coming up soon.

    The IPL games would be available to stream for free, from any device connected to the internet with any network connection, on Jio Cinema with an array of viewing features and options. Reliance is all set to merge Voot with Jio Cinema as per recent reports.

    The brave bet is likely to be successful for many reasons. For starters, it helps Reliance gain viewership, estimated by the executives at Viacom to be around 550 million across the season.

    Reliance would want to use this opportunity to further plug the users into the Jio ecosystem, especially with Jio Cinema and the launch of Jio Media Cable.

    In the future, Jio would want to use the IPL to attract viewers towards its hardware offerings, like Jio Glass (Augmented Reality Glasses). Already, Jio is investing heavily in the metaverse products. 

    Two, it helps with the advertising. For 2023 alone, Reliance is aiming for ad revenues of around Rs 4,000 crore. Assuming they were able to do this for the next five years, they would recover the cost they paid for the streaming rights.

    A free streaming service for the IPL also opens up more advertising opportunities for Reliance, and while that may be an eyesore for some viewers, it does work with the majority audience. Also, digital streaming allows for accommodation of more ads with minimal wastage. 

    Three, Reliance does not want to get into the subscription model for Voot or Jio Cinema, and probably it makes sense. For starters, the two platforms do not have enough content, outside cricket, to compete with the bigger OTT platforms (Netflix, Prime, Sony, Zee, MX, etc.).

    Also, Reliance would want to repeat the Jio telecom model here. Free streaming for two years, followed by a minimal subscription fee as users find themselves hooked to the complete Jio ecosystem (5G, WiFi, Media Cable, Metaverse, etc.).

    In hindsight, it appears that Reliance has paid the $2.7 billion for creating a marketing launchpad for their products, for the ads would enable them to recover the cost easily, and allow them to gain close to a billion new subscribers by 2027 across services.

    Well played. Mr. Ambani, for not everyday someone pays $2.7 billion for the dearest sporting commodity in a country of 1.4 billion people and gives it away for free.

    IPL is merely a $2.7 billion excuse, for the focus is on the Jio ecosystem with revenue potential of billions and billions of dollars. 

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