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Jio pushes Media Cable for IPL: Will it pay off?

Jio is pitching the product as a game changer that will take the IPL viewership on JioCinema through the roofs

Back in 2017, Mukesh Ambani had announced that the company will be launching Jio Media Cable - a device that lets people connect their phone to a regular TV and convert it into a smart TV. Also, one can use any internet connection to use the device. But until now, it has not seen the light of the day. 

Cut to now, ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, Jio is yet again pitching the product as a game changer that will take the IPL viewership on JioCinema through the roof. JioCinema aims to reach over 500 million audience this IPL. 

Jio media cable: IPL-specific strategy

Experts believe that the Jio Media Cable launch is part of Jio’s strategy to increase the adaption of JioCinema to watch IPL this year.

Rammohan Sundaram

According to Rammohan Sundaram, Country Head and Managing Partner - Integrated Media, DDB Mudra Group, there’s a possibility that people will use this device for watching IPL, but later on they might return to TV unless they get hooked onto it. 

"I don't think it will disturb the overall content consumption story in the long run but definitely for IPL it will. It is a clear IPL strategy. I do not know whether people will use this device post-IPL or not. I think this is a short-term concept. They will position this device to propel their experience of streaming capability and all of this is going to be streamed in 4K video resolution. So, viewing on a TV with 4K video resolution has never happened in live sports events in India. That will change the perception of people," Sundaram added.

Can only make difference if distributed at cheaper rates widely

Niti Kumar

On the other hand, Starcom India’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Niti Kumar, said that ahead of IPL, it will make a difference to the viewing experience of a certain set of people who don’t have smart TVs and haven’t bought a TV subscription. For her, the only thing that can make a difference is if it's distributed cheaply and widely.

"To my mind, it’s a small set of people. Those who don’t have smart TVs would typically have a DTH or cable subscription to view content on TV, in which case simply adding on a sports subscription will meet the need for a good viewing experience. The real value-addition will come if the Jio Media Cable is distributed cheaply and widely," she added.

While IPL 2023 is just around the corner, the product’s availability and pricing are yet not out in public. The rates of the product floating in the market are between Rs 500-2000. According to certain news reports, Jio will reduce its price ahead of IPL 2023. A few influencers will also be seen promoting the product.  

Jio Media Cable is similar to any other casting devices like Amazon Firestick and others in the market. Starcom’s Kumar said, “If I were to compare with other casting devices, it's competitive. However, the real comparison should be done with the sports pack of DTH and cable subscriptions, which will be lower.”

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Media cable can help cover the cost of streaming IPL for free on JioCinema

In an industry-first, JioCinema will be streaming IPL free for its viewers. Sundaram pointed out that through the Jio Media Cable, the company will very smartly increase the usage of data, which in turn will increase the revenue from data consumption. Through this strategy, Jio might be able to cover the cost up to some extent for streaming IPL free.

Explaining the thought behind the same, he said, “People with the Jio network on mobile phones have an average data plan of only 2GB per day,  which won’t last for more than an hour if IPL is streamed through it. So, Jio is very smartly increasing the usage of data in order to increase its revenue from there. Unlike a standalone OTT, which is dependent on the operator to ride their revenues, here the operator itself is the OTT. So, if they do not make money largely on subscription, they can cover it up because they are the operator.”

He went on to state that with only 2GB of data per day, people will have to top-up their data plan. This is a very smart plan which only an operator can do. So, they are not losing money, they will gain money this way and therefore, one layer is eradicated. 

“Earlier the layer was that you pay money to Hotstar as well or whoever your mobile operator is. Now the numbers are going to shoot up dramatically. Jio's impact is going to be phenomenal,” Sundaram stated. 

He went on to state that overall, the 500 million reach will come from these combinations put together. The only question is how many people are going to top-up their 2GB data plan that gets throttled.

Does it have the potential to take away the audience from Star Sports to JioCinema?

While connected TV’s penetration is still at 20-22 million, TV’s penetration is pegged at around 210 million. In India, generally, people watch cricket with families or in groups on TV. In that sense, more people will watch IPL on Star Sports. But would Jio Media Cable, which has the ability to convert any TV into a smart TV, be able to impact Star Sports’ IPL audience base?

“Jio media cable will make consumers’ mundane TV into smart TV. They are using the mirroring technology that currently exists on all smartphones. By doing this, they have the potential of adding millions of households who have TVs,” Sundaram stated.

Potential for advertisers

More reach will bring in more advertisers

As per DDB Mudra’s Sundaram, if the reach on digital will grow, the advertising will also increase. 

“At the end of the day, there has to be a justification for the price that you are asking for. Jio is propelling growth. Once they are able to do it, the advertisers will be happy to pay,” he added. 

Although, according to Starcom's Kumar, unless Jio Media Cable sells this inventory cut separately to the digital feeds/targeted feeds, it may not add too much value to advertisers. Perhaps some incremental reach over the digital reach of IPL could be bought. 

"However, we will need more details from Jio on the numbers they are expecting and the penetration of the device. If we look at Fire Stick or Chromecast penetration, it is not on a mass scale yet," she added.

Here’s what netizens are saying about the product in the market

One user said, “As much as the product serves a purpose of (budget) Chromecast, it won't be a game changer as its maximum audience will be in rural and rural people mostly tend to rely on individual small content consumption over binge-watching content on a larger screen.”

Another user said, “They’d already launched it in 2017. Unless they’re relaunching it now. Didn’t have many takers back then. Fits well now, with IPL digital rights + free streaming plans on Jio Cinema. Potentially a traditional-channel (Star Sports) killer esp in non-metro towns.”

A user also pointed out that Jio should package it with a Jio TV app with LiveTV channels with a subscription model and bundle subscription for OTT apps. Then this could be a game changer. Market disruptive product.

A netizen wrote that “Mirroring doesn't scale well for video. The issue of lag is always persistent.”

“We have Samsung CRT TV and we use Airtel Xstream. It allows us to cast as well as watch all the OTTs. Gives us the DTH as well,” commented another person on Twitter.

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