Star vs Viacom, TV vs Digital: Next big broadcast idea, Little India will decide this unique IPL battle
Migrants make daily video calls at home. The young digital native who wears headphones and commutes every day. Taxi drivers equipped with GPS navigation with time to kill between trips. Villagers not connected to a wired network but within range of mobile towers. New Internet users in times of a pandemic. Rural people with aspirations and smartphones bought on EMI. And above all, the powerful officials of the BCCI, obsessed with control.
It’s this eclectic group that will decide whether the punt taken by broadcasters in IPL’s recent record-breaking electronic auction will prove prudent in the long run. They will collectively determine whether the latest IPL valuation of Rs 48,000 crore was in fact an overshoot or whether BCCI and broadcasters have read the tea leaves floating above the still simmering IPL pot.
The Indian Express spoke to three industry veterans – all decision-makers with in-game skin but insisting on remaining anonymous – to understand the big churn. They hail the IPL 2022 auction as a watershed event that launched two game-changing events – digital TV surpassing media rights valuation and BCCI for the first time signing more than one broadcaster.
Men in the thick of it agree that IPL’s new digital rights holder, Viacom 18-Reliance, despite pushing the envelope and pledging an unprecedented Rs 23,775 crore to BCCI, will get its return on investment. To make their point, they talk about the dramatic increase in cricket fans’ consumption capacity of T20 and Deloitte’s recent prediction of the number of Indian smartphones surpassing 100 crore by 2024.
They trust the ever-growing army of addicted wearables to push Viacom 18-Reliance past the bottom line. But it’s the BCCI combinations they’re not sure about.
They have their reasons. In this digital vs. TV battle to woo the same set of IPL-eating eyeballs, both competing broadcasters would prefer an exclusive look for their TV show. For this to happen, BCCI will need to deviate from its previous policy of providing the same global feed – both voice and visual – to digital and television.
These are changing times. BCCI has never faced a situation where its broadcast partners are working against the grain. With smart TV blurring the lines between the conventional silly box and online content, the IPL airways are in for an intense showdown.
The last five years of the monopoly era, when Star owned all of IPL, are over. Now, two legitimate sales teams are aggressively pursuing IPL advertisers.
“Star and Viacom must have different products. If BCCI plays well, it creates healthy competition between the two. They must allow innovation in content and products. If they allow this to happen, the fans have a choice,” an insider said.
Thanks, @StarSportsIndia to renew the partnership!
This is just the start of a promising 5-year journey. We can’t wait to get started. #TATAIPL
– IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) June 14, 2022
BCCI, meanwhile, is not yet ready to change its policy on sharing the live stream from the stadium. “When they signed up, they were aware of it. It’s hard to see two sets of comment boxes on the site – one for digital and one for TV,” a BCCI official said.
Afterwards, he alludes to the possibility of negotiations. “They can approach us and there can be a discussion on the matter.”
The dust of the bidding has just settled, and the winners are now installed at the two corners of the ring. Like in boxing, the stern-looking referee whispers the rules of the game to them. He seems firm but is willing to be flexible.
Since Pepsi’s ‘nothing official about it’ breach of Coke territory in the 1996 World Cup, cricket has come a long way. In 2023, expect an intense off-pitch skirmish that will have “everything official about it”. The two broadcasters, each under contract to pay close to Rs 50 crore for each match, are brainstorming ways to turn every stone on the cricket pitch.
While Star’s advertising blitz might be about the common joy of watching IPL in the living room, Viacom 18-Reliance might just be selling the bliss of watching sports with noise-cancelling headphones around.
Since its inception, the IPL has been synonymous with growth and today is a red day for India Cricket, with Brand IPL
hitting a new high with electronic auctions resulting in a value of INR 48,390 cr. The IPL is now the 2nd most popular sports league in the world in terms of
— Jay Shah (@JayShah) June 14, 2022
“Whoever innovates the most in comments, data will further reduce IPL penetration in smaller segments,” an insider said. And continues with a line that would explain a little the unexplored areas that broadcasters are eyeing. “Even today, half of India doesn’t watch the IPL.”
A few figures will help to understand this.
At present, India has nearly 400 million digital users, while the corresponding TV figure is 1 billion.
Those connected to the airways say that while the growth potential of digital media is immense, television has reached a saturation point. “People are now only changing their TV, but not adding any. On the digital side, the reach of smartphones is deep. And in case someone brings a cheaper smartphone to market, more uncharted areas will be covered” , explains an expert.
Even based on the current flat TV figures in the country, Star’s offer of Rs 23,000 crore has profit potential, it is said. “Television has its fixed subscribers and over the years we have seen that even at high advertising rates, new products are launched on television during IPL months,” he said.
What about digital broadcasters? Will they also laugh on their way to the bank? Experts toss around words like ‘theoretical gains’ and ‘long-term valuation’ when asked about the rationale for fishing for Rs 23,757 crore for digital rights. “Digital sees things differently. When Amazon entered India, the initial period was not to make profit. It was about attracting consumers, getting subscribers. These things increase the valuation of the company. Digital might not see a direct cash flow from IPL for the first few years, but over time their positions will improve,” says a broadcast bigwig while listing Reliance Group’s interest in e-commerce and telecommunications.
“Like Amazon, Viacom 18-Reliance is also expected to use the IPL pitch to promote their telecom and online retail products. They will first build a subscriber base, then monetize it and use it to sell their products as well. services. That’s the big game, they will make a profit over time.
An avid badminton expert market watcher recounts an episode of urgent app download to make his point about the ease of watching sports on digital platforms. Earlier this year, while on his farm, he had a sudden urge to watch badminton star Lakshya Sen’s game. He called friends to find out where to connect. He was told it was on Voot, Reliance’s OTT platform, it took him less than five minutes to get the app and watch the match live.
“Imagine now, if it was only on TV. I would have to reach the cable guy first, wait for him to fix things. Since you get subscription-based broadband, everything is simple. The cost also went down. The pandemic gave digital a boost again. During the pandemic, everyone wanted to automate and work remotely. With the coming of the cloud, you don’t have to buy servers and everything it helped digital,” he says.
There are other reasons for optimism. With the launch of 5G, data speeds set to go vroom, and Wi-Fi to become ubiquitous and therefore more affordable, the leap in consumption is set to multiply.
Digital broadcasters are in a state of frenzy, eager to be enterprising and adventurous. “In digital, they can create multiple segments because they can be easily personalized. That’s a big advantage over TV. If you want to create a new segment in TV, you have to find a niche first, after that , you need a channel, TRAI approval, and after all that, convince the cable company. In digital, you just have to sit in an office and make a segment. Say, there’s this big game that should attract a large audience. A digital broadcaster can simply create two additional channels for this game only, ”explains an expert.
So, will television soon become background noise? Not really. It also has its advantages, as well as its own ease of use.
For starters, whatever the digital backers say, the sport lends itself better to bigger screens. It is also more convenient.
“People in general are lazy. They want easy access. In digital, interaction is still limited. Television is a comfortable medium from the point of view of the human interface. Changing channels is easy. The user experience is seamless. Between overs, if I want to check the news and get back into the sport, it’s easier. In digital, we are stuck in a medium, ”explains an expert. And buffering is still a reality, not an archaic past.
Most trend watchers say there is enough space for the two to co-exist. “For the next five years, TV will still be number one, but digital is going to take over. After 10 years, anyone can guess.
It is technological advancement that will determine the timing of the next game-changing rotation. Like many of nature’s mysterious ways of balancing things, the acceptability of these big ideas with millions at stake will depend on Little India.
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