Reliance had discovered the power of “free” with the Jio launch, and it appears to be doing an encore with the IPL on JioCinema.
Reliance has managed to snag more viewers in the opening weekend of the 2023 IPL season than Hotstar had managed to get in all of 2022, the company has claimed. This is on the back of the IPL being broadcast for free on JioCinema, as opposed to a being behind a pay plan on Hotstar. JioCinema says it got 147 crore video views during the opening weekend of this year’s IPL, which had featured five games.
Apart from the views, other metrics improved too. JioCinema says that the average viewer saw a a match for 57 minutes, which was 67 percent more than in 2022. JioCinema’s app was also downloaded 5 crore times over the opening weekend. On 31st March, which was the first day of the IPL, the app saw 2.5 crore downloads, making it the most downloaded app on that day. The platform also saw 10 crore new viewers over the weekend, which is nearly 8% of India’s entire population.
“This is clear evidence of the digital revolution sweeping through the country,” said Viacom 18 Sports CEO Anil Jayaraj. “Digital is targetable, addressable and interactive,” he added.
JioCinema has reason to crow about these numbers. While it had paid Rs. 20,000 crore for IPL’s digital rights, it’s streaming the tournament for free for consumers. But Reliance will hope to make back the money from the increased reach of the IPL — since this season’s viewership is likely to be larger than before, it can charge a higher rate on the ads it runs, and essentially make up the cost of streaming the IPL for free. These ad rates will be determined by the number of people who tune in, so Reliance will likely keep updating viewers and advertisers of the numbers it’s managing to pull.
Star, for its part, isn’t taking this lying down. In a newspaper ad, Star has claimed improved numbers for its TV broadcasts as well. Star has claimed 1.4 crore reach, and a 47 percent growth in consumption for the opening day of this season. Star too needs to draw a large audience to be able to charge high ad rates for its TV broadcasts, and will likely continue to tout higher numbers. Amidst all this, BCCI’s splitting of IPL’s TV and digital rights as two separate packages is beginning to look like even more of a masterstroke — as Jio and Hotstar compete with each other to get the highest digital and TV viewerships respectively, the BCCI gets sit back and watch its golden goose keep breaking new viewership records.