Initial IPL TV viewership gives confidence and validation of strategy, says Disney Star

The company, which has the linear broadcast rights for Tata IPL, has so far roped in 13 sponsors.
Representational Image: Gujarat Titans batter Sai Sudharsan during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Gujarat Titans. (Photo | PTI)
Representational Image: Gujarat Titans batter Sai Sudharsan during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Gujarat Titans. (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: Disney Star is continuing to sign up advertisers for the ongoing Tata IPL 2023, encouraged by the initial viewership of the T20 league on its television platform amid "unavoidable" competition from JioCinema which has the digital streaming rights, according to a senior company official.

The company, which has the linear broadcast rights for Tata IPL, has so far roped in 13 sponsors, including Dream11, Asian Paints, Thums Up, Airtel, Cadbury, Mountain Dew, Parle Biscuits, Kamla Pasand, Rupay, Britannia, Tata Neu, Jindal Panther TMT Rebars and LIC.

According to Disney Star Head --Sports Sanjog Gupta, the broadcaster clocked a total of 8.7 billion minutes of consumption on TV for the opening match, which is 47 per cent more in comparison to last year as per BARC India data.

"The interest in IPL continues to be high in multiple categories. IPL is unavoidable," he told PTI in an interaction.

Even brands with seasonal categories have also come on board, Gupta said, adding this time around the sponsors have come from different sectors ranging from - fantasy gaming, beverages makers, telecom, FMCG, fintech, insurance, auto and ancillaries, online delivery, consumer durables, paints and construction and travel.

"It's a strong list of sponsors, a combination of new sponsors, who have come on board for the first time and some who have returned because their association with IPL had delivered significant value," he said adding "most of the advertisers want eyeballs and attention".

According to him, the television platform delivers "undistracted and uninterrupted attention", while on the smaller screens, the viewers are "distracted" due to multitasking.

"At the end of the day, advertisers want attention, because if they want their messaging to land with consumers, then they want the consumers to be fully immersed and not be distracted and not to have the viewing experience being interrupted by multiple different elements that may pop up," Gupta said.

When asked about the revenue growth this season, he said advertisers are still coming and it would be difficult for him to comment at this early stage of the IPL season.

"Only 6 of the 74 matches have been played. We are still signing up advertisers. So it's a bit too early, we typically talk about these things at the end of the tournament," he said.

On the competition for eyeballs with Reliance-owned JioCinema, which has the digital streaming rights for IPL, he said it is "unavoidable".

However, Gupta added, "We do not see it as a zero-sum game. Rather, we see this as an opportunity to serve fans differently. We have always taken immense pride in putting the fan first," he said.

Reliance-owned JioCinema, had claimed a peak concurrency of 1.6 crore and 6 crore viewers overall for the initial match of IPL.

Star Sport's intent was to bring a sense of togetherness and community around IPL and enjoyed it together, he said.

"The thrust of what we are trying to do is to serve fans and our belief is that if you put fans first and if you stay obsessed with fans and serving them, then there is no reason for you to not be able to create a compelling product that fans want to watch," Gupta said.

It has signed up cricket stars, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, K L Rahul and Shreyas Iyer, for its campaign to promote fans watching the tournament on television broadcast.

"What we want to do is we want to elevate the experience of fans on Star Sports, which applies to TV.  So the experience that the fans must have on television with Star Sports should be enhanced," he said.

Hence for the first time, Gupta said new features have been introduced for fans watching Star Sports on Tata Play and Airtel to watch instant highlights.

"We also heard a lot of fans, core fans who wanted deeper statistics. And we introduce statistics on demand on the button with Tata play and Airtel, again," he said.

Though the Disney Star has TV rights only for the IPL, Gupta said it is "screen agnostic now" as it engages with fans across all screen formats.

"So while Star Sports as a platform is a linear platform as a brand, it is actually omnipresent. So Star Sports has a fairly significant presence on social media as well. And we use those channels or platforms to engage with off-platform audiences when Star Sports doesn't have the live match on," he said.

Last year, cricket body BCCI sold the broadcast rights for the 2023-27 cycle of the IPL for a whopping Rs 48,390 crore.

Disney Star bagged the television rights for the Indian subcontinent for Rs 23,575 crore and Reliance-backed Viacom18 got digital rights for Rs 20,500 crore.

When asked how the company planned to recoup money paid for rights, Gupta said it's a five-year investment and too early to evaluate an investment on that.

"It's not something that we can recoup in one year. It's a significant investment that will bear fruit...we will see returns over the next five years," he said adding "When we decided to make the investment, there was a plan in which we had how to recoup the investment and that we stay committed."

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