We wanted digital rights; we will deliver superior experience: Viacom18
When Viacom18 pipped Disney Star to secure the rights to exclusively broadcast the Indian Premier League (IPL), the naysayers were quick to remark that the ₹24,352-crore acquisition will not give Mukesh Ambani, the second-richest Asian, the bang for his buck. The annual cricketing jamboree — the biggest of its kind — was a shadow of its former self in 2022. According to a survey carried out by Axis My India, only 25% of the Indian population watched the IPL, and 65% of the ones who watched IPL watched it on television. Only 29% of those who watched IPL, watched on digital platforms.
How does Jyoti Deshpande, who helms Viacom18, looks at these headwinds? “We know how Jio has built digital India. Jio has been instrumental in the uptake of Facebook, YouTube, and even building out the viewership of Hotstar in India through its digital connectivity,” she tells Fortune India. Deshpande also alludes that once 5G is rolled out, it is going to be a differentiator. “We’re strategically tied to Jio, and with 5G around the corner, we’re in pole position to increase consumption and uptake across 800 million broadband users in India,” she adds. She also believes that the synergies with Jio will be leveraged to deliver a product and user experience which will be far superior to linear broadcast. “I’m sure sports fans would love to enjoy those product features which I don't want to reveal now; they will be revealed at the right time,” she alludes.
Having a pan-India digital footprint is critical for both Viacom18 and Reliance Industries. “Anything and everything that can go digital is going digital — at an exponential rate... India cannot afford to be left behind,” RIL-chairman Mukesh Ambani said at the launch of Jio. Deshpande also says that the acquisition was a strategic decision. “We have a game plan. We wanted digital rights; we went after digital rights; we procured digital rights. We believe that we would be in a position to offer the best consumer experience with this game plan and from that follows monetisation.”