Mukesh Ambani’s Conglomerate ‘Viacom18’ to Stream IPL for Free

ENTERTAINMENT SPORTS

According to people familiar with the situation, Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate will stream cricket matches from the Indian Premier League for free. It will use its exclusive rights to one of the most watched sporting events in the world to compete with Walt Disney Co. and Amazon.com Inc. in the expanding media market in India.

Viacom18 Media Pvt., has licensed the IPL streaming rights last year for $2.7 billion by a joint venture between Paramount Global and Ambani’s conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd., fending off rivals Disney and Sony Group Corp. Disney previously held those rights and used them to attract subscribers to its streaming service, Disney+ Hotstar.

According to the individuals, who declined to be identified due to the fact that the move has not been made public, Viacom18 is employing a novel strategy, making the games available to as many people as possible in order to generate advertising sales. Google and Facebook, two of the nation’s free media services, have outperformed paid premium offerings like Netflix in terms of advertising revenue.

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Executives at Viacom18 have estimated that more than 550 million people will watch the IPL games, which will last for weeks. This will boost the conglomerate’s technology and internet goals, which include online entertainment and retail.

The series of matches this year will begin on March 31 and last nearly eight weeks, with each match lasting only three hours. Users of Viacom18 will be able to watch as many games as they want for as long as they want on any device with an internet connection.

For Reliance, it’s a tried-and-true strategy that helped it win over hundreds of millions of customers and drive competitors out of business by offering mobile service at prices that were significantly lower than the competition. It has a unique reach to capitalize on a tournament that has been compared to the “Super Bowl” of cricket thanks to the five-year IPL contract.

Disney, which had previously held the IPL streaming rights, failed to win that auction, but it did win the TV broadcast rights by out-gunning Sony. After completing the paperwork for the initial auction, another contender, Amazon, pulled out of the bids in the final hour.

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Ambani was successful because he paid nearly three times as much as Disney had in the previous deal. Together with Paramount, billionaire James Murdoch, former Hotstar CEO Uday Shankar, and Paramount, Ambani made a bid for the IPL rights.