February 23, 2024

Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar will offer free streaming of cricket tournaments in India on mobile devices, following rival JioCinema’s success in garnering millions of viewers with a similar strategy in the cricket-crazy nation. Hotstar said on Friday it would offer the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup tournaments at no cost to users. JioCinema had offered free telecast of the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the world’s most lucrative annual sporting properties, after it bagged the internet rights from Hotstar.

The broadcasting joint venture of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries said it had clocked a record 13 billion digital views in the first five weeks of the tournament, with each viewer spending an hour on average per match. Research firm CLSA has estimated Hotstar’s subscriber base shrank by nearly 5 million users after it lost the IPL rights.

While JioCinema is preparing to start charging users for content, its executives have said IPL streaming will continue to be offered at no cost. Cricket is the most popular game in the world’s top populous nation, where the bulk of digital consumption is driven by smartphones with an estimated 700 million users.

“If continued over the longer term, free cricket offerings may magnify losses for streaming platforms or lead to consolidation, as many platforms may not be able to survive with lower revenue per user,” Elara Capital analyst Karan Taurani said. With hefty content costs and strong competition in digital ads, freemium – a blended revenue model that relies on both subscription fees and ad sales – is the best way to go for steaming platforms in India, Taurani added. 

© Thomson Reuters 2023 

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