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Viacom18 Sports CEO: No subscription fee for sports content

Anil Jayaraj, CEO of Viacom18 Sports, expressed his enthusiasm for the potential of sports in the digital medium, highlighting the significant opportunity to establish a robust revenue model. The Indian Premier League (IPL) witnessed impressive viewership numbers this year, aided by the availability of free digital streaming through the JioCinema app. Viewers only needed to download the app on any device to enjoy live coverage of the popular cricket tournament.

Viacom18 Sports CEO: No subscription fee for sports content
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Viacom18 Sports CEO: No subscription fee for sports content 

Anil Jayaraj, CEO of Viacom18 Sports, expressed his enthusiasm for the potential of sports in the digital medium, highlighting the significant opportunity to establish a robust revenue model. The Indian Premier League (IPL) witnessed impressive viewership numbers this year, aided by the availability of free digital streaming through the JioCinema app. Viewers only needed to download the app on any device to enjoy live coverage of the popular cricket tournament.

In the previous year, there was a fierce competition for television and digital rights. Disney Star held both rights for the period 2018-22. However, for the subsequent five-year period (2023-27), Viacom18, an entity owned by Reliance Industries, secured the digital rights, while Disney Star settled for the television rights. Viacom18 disrupted the status quo by offering digital streaming for free on JioCinema, its OTT platform.

Anil Jayaraj clarified in an interaction with Business Today that there are no plans to introduce a subscription fee for sports content on JioCinema. This decision eliminates subscription-based revenue and puts significant reliance on advertising. Jayaraj expressed satisfaction with the performance of digital advertising during the IPL season and believes there is still immense untapped potential. The projected revenue from digital media in 2021 stands at approximately Rs 67,100 crore, according to FICCI-EY's report on the media and entertainment sector. The report further estimates a revenue of Rs 86,200 crore by 2025, indicating a compound annual growth rate of 14.7% between 2022 and 2025.

The strategy to offer JioCinema's streaming services for free was a carefully considered decision. Anil Jayaraj explained that they aimed to provide unrestricted access to IPL content in a seamless manner, without the need for subscriptions or paywalls. Additionally, the audience had the advantage of watching the IPL in various languages, with 17 simultaneous feeds available in 12 different languages, including English, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Bhojpuri, and Odia. Jayaraj acknowledged that long-form content on digital platforms has become a reality, and with 700 million internet users in India, there is tremendous potential for growth and innovation.

In response to the move by Viacom18, Disney+Hotstar, the OTT platform owned by Disney Star, swiftly announced that the upcoming Asia Cup and ICC men's cricket world cup would be made available as free-to-view for all mobile phone users accessing their application. Previously, these events were behind a paywall, but considering the large subscriber base comprising mobile phone users, the focus will now be on generating advertising revenue. The battle between the platforms is ongoing, and the final outcome is yet to be determined.

Dwaipayan Bhattacharjee
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