Disney-Star India’s ICC World Cup telecast sets new records

Disney-Star India’s ICC World Cup telecast sets new records

Will zooming viewership on Disney+Hotstar and TV, and new advertisers boost the company's profits?

ICC World Cup

Mumbai: India’s main strike bowler Mohammed Shami was breathing fire as he charged in and bowled an unplayable delivery to New Zealand tailender Lockie Ferguson which the latter edged to KL Rahul behind the stumps. In the process, he set a record by capturing seven wickets for 57 runs, the most by any Indian bowler. And a roar went up in Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium where the semi-final of the ICC One Day World Cup was being played out. The Indian cricket side led by Rohit Sharma had got through to the finals of the championship, which many a pundit had predicted it would, by bowling out a fighting New Zealand side for 327 runs against their total of 397 for four.

Even as Shami was running amock on the field of play, executives at Disney Star India’s offices were also celebrating. Its streaming service Disney+Hotstar had a notched up a record by registering  53 million concurrent viewers at peak. A world record, it beat the earlier 44 million concurrent viewership record that Disney + Hotstar had set during the match between India and South Africa.  

The peak concurrency for the India-New Zealand semi-final fluctuated between 50 million and 53 million as Bumrah scalped Glenn Phillis, Kuldeep outfoxed Mark Chapman, Mohammed Siraj snapped up Mitchell Santner, and Shami got the better of the centurion Daryl Mitchell, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson to take India into the finals.

Thankfully, for India’s leading broadcast and streaming network the match ran its course which more than allowed it to fulfill its obligations to its on-air advertising and sponsor partners. Some of the earlier fixtures that the very dominating Indian side had played had ended early and Disney Star India had then reportedly chosen to make good some of the air time to its advertiser partners.

For Disney Star India, the ICC World Cup should prove a matchwinner in terms of revenues. With India now in the finals, which is to be held on 19 November in Ahmedabad, new viewership records are likely to be set. Programming around the finals and India’s chances on lifting the trophy is likely to be pumped up, advertising inventory created - which could sell at a premium. It’s quite possible that more advertisers could snap up FCT on the channel which again will sell at a premium.

Speaking at an ICC conference Cricket Matters on 14 November in Mumbai’s St Regis Hotel, its sports head Sanjog Gupta was pleased as punch.

“We have had 450 million viewers on TV in just the first 34 matches, of the ICC one Day World Cup” he said. “That’s more viewers than the top three entertainment channels combined on the sports event.  We had a peak concurrency of 80 million  on our TV channels  in the 12 languages we telecast and 44 million on our streaming service. We have generated a buoyancy in the festive season with advertising spending up 40 per cent. 45-50 new category advertisers have come on to the World Cup. We have had a 20 per cent growth in terms of time spent viewing by viewers over 2019. ”

Not just Gupta, but even Disney Star country manager and president K Madhavan had a beaming wide smile on his face at the semi-final’s post-match presentation. Madhavan presented the man of the match award to Shami.

The success of the ICC World Cup event should result in some soul searching in Burbank, the Walt Disney Co’s hq.  The company has been looking for a partner for its India business ever since CEO Bob Iger earlier this year expressed that the low ARPUs, weak advertising, heavy subscriber churn and skyrocketing sports rights costs were eroding the company’s bottom line. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio has been reported to be among the front runners for the partnership.

Iger apparently seemed to have softened his stance – compared to earlier in the year – during the mouse house’s fourth-quarter earnings call for FY2023 on 8 November 2023 when questioned about what he intended to do with the India business.

“…in India, our linear business actually does quite well. Yes, it's making money. But we know that other parts of that business are challenged for us and for others. And we are looking, I'll call it, extensively,” Iger had responded.  “I know I've said this before, it always gets me in trouble. But we're considering our options there. We have an opportunity to strengthen our hand. It is now maybe the most populous country in the world or maybe just still second to China and about to pass them. We'd like to stay in that market. But we're also looking to see whether we can strengthen our hand obviously, improve the bottom line.”

With the World Cup shaping up the way it has for Disney Star India in terms of viewership and new advertisers, some of that may hopefully end up showing up in the shape of a much better bottom line. And hopefully keep Iger and investors in a better frame of mind.