Viacom18’s ‘free’ IPL streaming: Will the wager pay off? Industry weighs in

With no subscription fee for the IPL streaming, JioCinema will have to solely depend on advertisers for revenue, caution industry observers

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Mar 15, 2023 1:01 PM  | 6 min read

Viacom18, the digital media rights owner of the Indian Premier League (IPL), last month took a gambit by announcing that the tourney would be streamed free of cost on its JioCinema App for users across telecom networks.

With less than two weeks to go for the men’s league, which is expected to be India's largest streaming event ever with estimated 500 million people tuning in, the media and advertising circle is abuzz with varied opinions. 

Experts have been questioning the sustainability of the free-IPL offering for JioCinema.

JioCinema created a buzz when it decided to telecast the FIFA World Cup 2022 for free for viewers across telecom networks in India. The app is owned by Reliance Group’s media company Viacom18.

To put it in context, Reliance Jio is the largest telecom operator in the country with nearly 425 million users, as per TRAI’s latest report.

On Jio’s recent free-streaming offer, a media leader said, “With no subscription model for the IPL stream, Viacom18 will have to solely depend on advertisers for revenue that too at a time when advertisers have tightened their purse strings due to inflation and global economic concerns.”

It's noteworthy that Viacom18’s strategy is in stark contrast to the previous digital partner Disney+Hotstar, which used to offer IPL to paid subscribers only.

While Viacom18 claims that its free offering aims “to eliminate all barriers for IPL consumption”, the company’s move is being viewed as an attempt to take on rival Disney star, which would be the only broadcast partner of IPL for the next five years.

Early this year, Viacom18 bagged IPL digital media rights by shelling out Rs 23,758 crore for the 2023-2027 media cycle, almost similar to what Disney Star spent to buy TV rights for five years. This comes to around Rs 4,750 crore per year, for both the media partners of BCCI.

After committing roughly Rs 48,000 crore to the nation's top sports league, both Disney-Star and Viacom18 are vying for a share of estimated Rs 4,000-crore IPL advertising pie. After all, IPL is the most sought-after property for advertisers. 

“Recovering the cost may be an uphill task for both of them in this season. It wasn't so earlier since both the rights were owned by the same media house,” an industry player noted.

Digital ad inventory

The rate of ad inventory of digital platforms remains low compared to TV, which ranges from ¼ to 1/10 depending on the ad format. This is despite digital getting a large number of advertisers, including SMBs, say experts.

Moreover, Jio has kept its ad rate low compared to what Disney+Hotstar was charging till last season.

According to sources, JioCinema’s ad rates range between Rs 200-300 CPM (cost per thousand impressions). The ad rate for a Connected TV ad campaign is Rs 6 lakh per 10 seconds.

In contrast, Disney Star’s rate is Rs 16-17 lakh for 10-second ads as of now, which may go up during the semi-finals and finals.

Dr Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director of Rediffusion group, opines that Viacom18 would sail through since Reliance Group has deep pockets.

“Reliance Group must be having a long-term perspective on investments. Jio can afford to experiment with different models. That said, a self-serve model for advertisers could open up the floodgates for even small to medium advertisers,” he pointed out.

According to Dr Goyal, “Jio’s experiment could change the digital landscape quite considerably. A much larger number of advertisers with tiny budgets could make a beeline to the digital IPL streaming. Apertures of opportunity are manifold.”

As per Jigar Rambhia, COO, SporJo, “Viacom18 should attract a good number of sponsors for sure. Whether they will recover the costs or not, only time will tell.”

Some experts call it a customer acquisition strategy for Jio. Rambhia agrees, “I guess this (free streaming) will only help increase the reach of the property which is a very good thing.”

He further said that if users want to watch the property and if it’s free and they only have to pay for data, then I believe it’s a win-win for everyone. Ultimately, we need to pay for good quality content whether it's via platform fees or via data costs.

I guess all kinds of advertisers will explore this option. There is no reason for any particular sector to look at only digital.

How many Indians could afford data cost?

Watching a three-hour IPL match on mobile phone and connected TV would require 3-10 GB data depending on mobile specification, video quality (SD, HD, 4k) and data speed (3G, 4G, 5G), experts shared.

On average, the cost of one GB data in India is Rs 14, which means a viewer will have to pay anything between Rs 28 to Rs 140 just to watch one match of IPL. For the entire tournament of 74 matches, the data cost could go up to Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000.

Speaking with e4m last month, Viacom officials had disputed claims about data usage and cost. They insisted that an average user would need just 2 GB of data to watch IPL. They also stated that most viewers would not watch a full IPL match but a portion of it and so data cost will not be an issue.

Viacom18 didn’t respond to questionnaires on ad rate, data cost, and their strategy to recover the investment cost.  An email shared with them remained unanswered till the time of publishing.

Days ahead of IPL, Reliance Jio on Tuesday introduced a new set of Post-Paid Family Plans – Jio Plus -which will allow a family of four to try its 5G services absolutely free of cost for a month.

The new plan launched Tuesday starts from Rs 399 ranging to a total monthly charge of Rs 696 for a family of 4, that comes to just Rs 99 per additional member. The plan can be cancelled, if the user is still not satisfied with the value proposition.

Jio said in a press release that it was committed to providing transformational benefits, such as unlimited True 5G Data, through the Jio Welcome Offer, single bill for the entire family, data sharing, premium content apps, and much more.

“The idea behind launching Jio Plus is to offer exciting new benefits and experiences to discerning post-paid users. Jio has further strengthened its network experience by expanding True 5G to 331 cities. After having serviced over 430 million customers, there cannot be a more opportune time to welcome millions of new post-paid customers,” said Akash M Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Jio Infocomm.

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IPL 2023 on TV crosses last season's reach by 21%: BARC data

The cumulative reach on Star Sports for live broadcast of 48 matches stands at 451 million unique audience

By exchange4media Staff | May 11, 2023 7:01 PM   |   1 min read


The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 on Star Sports broke last year's record. According to the BARC data for 48 matches shared by the broadcaster, the cumulative reach for live broadcast of 48 matches stood at 451 million unique audience. It's 21% higher as compared to last year's full season's reach. Also, it's 33% higher than last year's season with the same number of matches.

According to the broadcaster, the highest ever reach garnered in HSM, North and West in the history of IPL. It is also highest ever reach in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP, Rajasthan, MP, Bihar, Pune/ Haryana/HP, Odisha and Bangalore and second highest ever in Delhi, Mumbai and Karnataka.

Meanwhile, TV saw 266 billion minutes consumption for the first 48 matches – which is the second highest ever (excluding COVID years).

Additionally, there is also growth of 29% in TVR for the first 48 matches. 

The league also recorded the highest HD reach of 86 million which is 3.4 times higher than the last year's season.

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Over 1300 cr video views clocked in first 5 weeks of IPL 2023: JioCinema

As per the streaming platform, the average time spent per viewer per match has touched 60 minutes

By exchange4media Staff | May 11, 2023 12:05 PM   |   1 min read


JioCinema, the official digital streaming partner of TATA IPL 2023, has reported clocking over 1300 crore video views in the first five weeks. As per the streaming platform, the average time spent per viewer per match also touched 60 minutes. TATA IPL 2023 on Connected TV reached twice the number of viewers than that on HD TV, it said.

“JioCinema continues to grow from strength to strength every week and it is based on clear evidence of consumer’s outright preference of catching the TATA IPL on digital,” said Viacom18 Sports CEO Anil Jayaraj. “The combination of outstanding cricket action and our robust platform proved the stellar opening weekend was just the beginning of bigger things to come. I would like to thank all our sponsors, advertisers, and partners for showing faith in our journey as we continue to elevate every fan’s TATA IPL viewing experience.”

As per JioCinema, it breached the peak concurrency records of TATA IPL twice in a span of five days. On April 12th, it clocked a 2.23-crore peak during the Chennai Super Kings vs Rajasthan Royals match. In the Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Chennai Super Kings fixture, JioCinema says it broke the record again with a concurrency of 2.4 crore.

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IPL 2023: Disney Star seeks higher ad rates for playoffs

The ad rates for league matches are in the range of Rs 15-16 lakh per 10 seconds

By Sonam Saini | May 11, 2023 8:48 AM   |   2 min read


Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the 16th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL),  has upped ad rates for the playoffs and is charging a premium for the second leg of the game. According to multiple sources, the broadcaster is looking for Rs 20-24 lakh for a 10-second ad spot during the quarter, semi-finals and finals.  The ad rates on league matches are priced at Rs 15-16 lakh per 10 seconds.  

“The broadcaster is seeking Rs 20-24 lakh for a 10-second ad spot. This is a tentative price; the transaction may close around Rs 20-22 lakh depending on the type of deal,” said a senior media planner on the condition of anonymity.

He also stated that if a marketer wants to buy a spot on all of the matches (combo deal), the broadcaster will most likely close it between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 22 lakh.

Another senior media planner informed that the broadcaster is in discussion with several brands right now and that the deals will most likely be finalised by next week. 

"Every year, broadcasters raise ad rates for the final matches due to the high level of interest during the playoffs," said a senior media planner. He further added, "There will be advertisers who want to buy spots on the final matches because advertisers understand that IPL matches reach a large number of people, especially during the finale.”

Meanwhile, Disney Star has on boarded four new sponsors after the start of the IPL and, according to the channel, discussions are happening to bring in a few more brands.  In total, Star Sports has roped in over 40 brands across 7-8 categories since the IPL began.

Star Sports has associated with close to 95 brands in the IPL this season. Out of these, close to 45 brands are new for the IPL; they were not present in previous seasons. There have been multiple new categories in this season, ranging from FMCG products like biscuits, dry fruits, dairy products, to brick & mortar-driven products in construction, to mobility-driven categories like travel luggage, online travel booking, and family-driven products like jewelry, ethnic wear, kitchen appliances.  

Disney Star now has a total of 16 sponsors for the 16th edition of IPL –Dream 11, Kamala Pasand, Airtel, Coke, Parle Products, Mountain Dew, Asian Paints, Tata Neu, Mondelelz, Britannia, Rupay, Jindal Steel, Rapido, Amul, Ultratech and Vanessa.

The network has retained the TV rights of IPL for Rs 23,575 crore.

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Pitch Perfect: Radio on a roll this IPL

From franchise associations to big campaigns, radio players are going all out to give advertisers the best reach and pull

By Tanya Dwivedi | May 10, 2023 8:47 AM   |   4 min read


With the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League swaying audiences across the board, brands have been in the forefront to make the most of this sporting spectacle. Not far behind have been radio players who have become a key advertising medium for most categories. From collaborations with franchises to churning out creative content for the season, radio has been playing all the right tunes.

Association with IPL teams

According to Nisha Narayanan, COO, Red FM, the IPL season is an integral part of the programming calendar as listeners like to be engaged with content around the league. “We have an existing collaboration with Sunrisers Hyderabad - a Sun group-promoted team that we partnered with every year. The association between Red FM and the orange army has been very fruitful and is an incredible partnership of 12 long years.”

As for Monalisa Mandal, AVP, Marketing & Digital, Fever FM, the franchise associations have paid off well. “We take pride in being a significant contributor to the league's success and have partnered with Delhi Capitals, Kolkata Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai Super Kings, and Mumbai Indians for the last decade. This year, we have added Gujarat Titans to our kitty. Moreover, our association with multiple teams stands us out during the IPL season.”

Big FM too has partnered with Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings. Abraham Thomas, CEO, of Reliance Broadcast Network, said, “We have done a lot of work with the stars of these teams.”

Sharing more on Radio City’s associations, CEO Ashit Kukian says, “Radio City's collaboration with Lucknow Super Giants is a strategic move to tap into the potential of the booming sports market and drive further growth in the radio business. Such associations allow Radio City to attract more advertisers who aim to attract a larger chunk of the audience during the season, thereby increasing the radio station's advertising revenue.”

Radio partnerships with cricket teams have become innovative and the attempt is to move beyond just branding and create immersive experiences for the listeners, Kukian explained. “The cricket updates provide an exciting experience to listeners as it builds an interaction with the radio station, allowing them to participate in contests such as predicting scores and predicting match winners. This, in turn, has increased engagement and made radio advertising more attractive to advertisers.”

Profits from tier markets

Radio may not have the visual appeal unlike TV and digital but is still a prominent medium of investment for brands. Partnership with IPL teams makes this pull stronger for radio and to achieve a greater reach radio players are going in for custom campaigns and in regional languages.
“As these matches take place in multiple cities, custom campaigns are created in regional languages to help brands acquire local connections. Brands that may not have the resources to go national also come on board and beat the limitations of distribution and ad wastage,” Narayanan pointed out.

Challenges any?

“The biggest challenge is the official accreditation like any other press for sports coverage and lack of clarity on the audio coverage of match moments. Live broadcasting is one of the most essential parts of the FM industry, and the inability to broadcast live is the biggest letdown,” Narayanan said.

“If we were permitted to broadcast live commentary, we could have brought sports to every corner of the country and made significant contributions and earnings, as they are two sides of the same coin.”

Kukian, however, believes radio as a medium offers unique advantages that cannot be replicated by television or digital media as it provides extensive and immersive coverage of matches, thereby activating the theatre of mind experience of the listeners.

Getting creative

IPL campaigns on the radio have stood out because of their creative and vivid style. “We bring our audience interesting content with campaigns like ‘Crowd Bajayega Loud’. It is an all-encompassing campaign with several cricket-related capsules on-air and on-digital,” said Narayanan.

Getting cricketing stars on board also draws audience. Sharing more on that, Kukian said, “Radio City has launched a new edition of its cricketing show ‘Cricket ka Blockbuster’ by on-boarding cricketer Suresh Raina as its official host for this season.”

Some players have ventured into the gaming arena too. Abraham says, “With My Gaming turning into a huge creative category, Big FM has launched Big Bingo Cricket this season.”

Sharing Fever FM’s campaigns, Monalisa said, “We have already launched our digital campaigns, which are tailored for each of our partner teams. For Delhi Capitals, we have "Har Ghar Killa Kotla", “Yeh Hai Nayi Delhi”, and "Junior DC". For Gujarat Titans, we have the "Avaa Dey" campaign; for KKR it is “Dil Kahe Baar Baar Ami KKR”.

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playR partners with Mumbai Indians, CSK, Punjab Kings and Rajasthan Royals for IPL

The brand has come on board as their Exclusive Global Merchandise Partner this year

By exchange4media Staff | May 8, 2023 1:45 PM   |   2 min read

play r

Sports and lifestyle brand playR has partnered with four IPL teams as their Exclusive Global Merchandise Partner this year. The teams include Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Punjab Kings, and Rajasthan Royals.

This partnership has enabled fans across the globe to feel more connected to the game, and the merchandise range includes apparel, accessories, and lifestyle products for fans to show their loyalty to their chosen team. The brand has been making waves in the sports merchandise industry with its commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.

In the short span since the association, playR has already achieved significant milestones. The brand has shipped over 35,000 jerseys and 15,000 fan merchandise in just 30 days. This is a testament to the brand's popularity and the trust that fans have in its products.

In addition to jerseys and fan merchandise, playR has also introduced cricket equipment for IPL Franchise, giving fans multiple touch points to connect with their favourite team.

Ravi Kukreja, Co-Founder, Director - playR says, “We are thrilled to be associated with some of the most popular IPL teams in the country. We believe that this collaboration will help us reach out to a wider audience and create more opportunities for fans to engage with the team and the sport. IPL has revolutionised an almost non-existent sports merchandise market in India, and our goal is to provide fans with the best sports merchandise and equipment. We have a wide variety of merch ranging from mugs to sippers, shakers, yoga mats, clothes, neck pillows, etc. The idea is to make fan merchandise a part of people’s lifestyles.

playR is a sport and lifestyle brand founded in 2021 and strives to provide customers with unique and edgy apparel, sports equipment, bicycles and accessories that celebrate their style and encourages them to express themselves. It currently retails in 250 plus retail stores and will soon touch 800 stores globally. It also retails from its dedicated e-commerce store, as well as on multi- brand online stores. playR provides a wide range of products that includes t-shirts, jackets, shorts, tracksuits, bats, balls, leg-guards, gloves, bicycles, bags, yoga mats, bottles, etc., as well as limited-edition items. playR’s mission is to inspire customers to be creative, confident, and fearless by providing them with a unique and fashionable style.

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IPL 16 sees peak concurrency of over 3 cr on TV for 26 out of 38 matches: Disney Star

According to the data shared by Disney Star, the top ten matches together crossed 40 crore in viewership

By exchange4media Staff | May 8, 2023 12:26 PM   |   1 min read


The Indian Premier League (IPL) 16th edition saw 26 of 38 matches registered peak concurrency of more than three crore on television. According to the data shared by the official broadcaster Disney Star Network, the top ten matches together crossed 40 crore viewership.  

The first match (Gujarat Titans vs Chennai Super Kings) garnered the highest viewership and led the top ten matches list with 5.6 crore followed by CSK vs RCB (24th) match with 5.2 crore. The 33rd match of the season garnered 5.1 crore of peak concurrency. 

Meanwhile, the sixth match of the season (CSK vs LSG) saw peak concurrent viewership of 5 crore. The fifth match (RCB and MI) saw 4.6 crore peak viewership. The 12th match between MI and CSK saw 4.5 crore. The ninth match which was played between KKR and RCB saw similar viewership of 4.5 crore. 

Last week in a press note,  Disney Star Network announced its sustained success in smashing viewership records for IPL on television with 2.53 crore new viewers tuning in to watch Week 4 of Tata IPL 2023. 

This takes the tally of total live viewership to 43.4 crore after 38 games, which is the second highest in IPL history. The broadcaster also witnessed a growth of more than 27% in TVR, for the first 38 games, compared to the last edition. The Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM) has recorded the highest viewership in IPL history with 29.1 crore fans tuning in for the first 38 matches.

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IPL 2023: 16 new categories & 75 new brands advertised in first 44 matches this year

According to a TAM report, the e-commerce gaming category maintained its top position on TV during IPL 16 as it was for IPL 15

By exchange4media Staff | May 8, 2023 9:06 AM   |   2 min read


The last 22 matches of the IPL 16 saw a rise in advertisers by 11 % and in advertising categories by 26% compared to the first 22 matches, according to a TAM advertising report.

As per the latest report, 16 new categories and 75 new brands were advertised in 44 matches of IPL this season compared to the same number of matches in IPL 15.

The report states that the e-commerce gaming category maintained its top position on TV during IPL 16 as it was for IPL 15. In IPL 16, fantasy sports platforms and Pan Masala managed to be in the top five advertising categories throughout 44 matches. Compared to the last IPL, the share of these two categories increased by 3 % and 9 % respectively.

While fantasy sports/ecom gaming had 14 % share in IPL 15, this year it has recorded 17% and Pan Masala, which had 7 % share of Ad volume last year, reached 16% this time, the report said.

Apart from these two, the other categories in the top five are aerated soft drink, biscuits and cellular phone service, which means three out of five top categories are food and beverages.

Collectively, the top five categories in IPL 16 together had 60 % share of Ad Volumes while top five advertisers contributed 40 % share of Ad Volumes during 44 matches this season.

Sporta Technologies was the leading advertiser during all 44 matches with 12 % share in Ad Volumes.

Among the 75 new brands, ‘Airtel 5G Plus’ was the leading brand followed by ‘Rajshree Silver Coated Elaichi’, Rupay Credit, Thums Up Charged, and Parle Platina Hide and Seek Black Bourbon.

Top advertisers for this year’s IPL are Sporta Technologies (, K P Pan Foods, Bharti Airtel, Parle Biscuits and Vishnu Packaging.

The percentage share (based on Ad Volumes) of Sporta Technologies ( and K P Pan Foods, increased from 7% and 5%, respectively in IPL 15 to 12% and 8% in IPL 16.

The report also mentioned common and exclusive brands on national sports channels versus regional sports channels in IPL 16.

A total of nine exclusive brands were seen on national (Hindi and English language) sports channels while 18 exclusive brands made it to regional language sports channels.

Dream was leading the list of common brands on both regional and Hindi + English sports channels during the 44 matches.

As many as 75 brands were common on both channel categories during the 44 matches this IPL, the report said.

Coca-Cola advertised its two brands - Maaza Aam Panna, which was the top exclusive brand on Hindi + English language sports channels, and Maaza which led the exclusive brands on regional sports channels.

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