Disney Star is set to broadcast 12 Indian Premier League (IPL) matches for free on its free-to-air (FTA) channel Star Utsav Movies in 2023.
This is the first time Disney Star will telecast IPL on its FTA channel, which reaches over 200 million viewers. The move is expected to give a boost to Disney Star's viewership in the rural market.
"For the first time, this year, Star Sports will take 12 IPL games on FTA via its Star Utsav Movies channel," Disney Star confirmed.
Karan Taurani, Senior Analyst at Elara Capital, said, “We believe this is primarily on the back of viewership growth pressure that Star may have anticipated due to IPL being available free on Jio Cinema and a general decline in the pay TV households base.”
While Disney Star bagged the TV broadcast rights, Viacom18 fetched the digital streaming rights for IPL. JioCinema will be streaming the matches for free.
“We hope that this free offering on FTA stays only for a few matches going ahead too and does not extend to more matches, as it will have a big negative impact on the monetisation of the most expensive entertainment platform in India. We hope the JioCinema offering too comes behind the paywall next season onwards, as pure ad monetisation opportunities don’t support the high content cost, which makes business economics unviable,” he added.
However, this is a good strategy by Star as it may keep the pay TV household number intact and more than compensate for the losses made by the reduction in pay TV households (annual loss of 3%, which is 5 million households), as against addition of 35 to 40 million FTA households, he added.
Furthermore, he went on to say that this in turn will provide a competitive edge for Star versus JioCinema and make total viewership possibly reach 500 million which is at par with what JioCinema has been providing for marketers.
“We continue to believe that time spent and consumption of matches will remain high on TV, as digital will primarily be convenience led and on-the-go viewing. IPL on digital may get a larger number of viewers or reach. However, time spent compared to TV remains to be much lower,” Taurani said.
“Sports as a content offering remains to be preferred on the large screen and don’t see a big threat for linear TV consumption unless smart TV numbers scale up (currently at 15%) and broadband penetration grows substantially (currently at 17%), as increased adoption of smart TV with affordable data has structural advantages like 4K - better viewing experience and interactivity, which linear TV does not offer,” he added.
Furthermore, Taurani stated that sports as a genre is more viewed in larger groups as compared to digital which is personalised in nature, which in turn will also propel time spent on TV led by mass viewership.
“On the flip side, we had already estimated that JioCinema offering IPL free will be a big negative for ARPU for other OTT platforms. This has also pushed the linear TV broadcaster to push IPL free on FTA, in order to combat the higher viewership/reach number,” Taurani said.