IPL allows JioCinema to offer premium long-form content viewing: Viacom18 CEO Sports Anil Jayaraj

FMCG, auto and beverages are some of the categories interested in IPL on JioCinema.

Mumbai: Earlier this year Viacom18 stunned people when it announced that JioCinema would air the IPL for free. Speaking at a media roundtable Viacom18 CEO Sports Anil Jayaraj said that the 20-20 league offers the opportunity to provide high-quality premium long-form content. There will be 16 feeds across 12 languages. Regional he noted is very critical and it is about figuring out which geography will make a massive switch due to the feed being offered in the language of their comfort. Some languages have not been done in the sport before he said while declining to offer specifics. There will be tech innovations like 4K and Multicam. He is excited about the opportunity of CTV and said that the declining viewership in HDTV has shifted to CTV.

He said that the advertiser response has been strong and singles out FMCG, auto and beverages as being some of the very interesting categories. While start-ups are seeing a slowdown he noted that in digital a client does not need to have an outlay to have a presence which is not the case with TV. People can come in at any value digitally. One just has to define how many people one wants to reach.

“We are trying to build a sports business that delights the Indian consumer and which provides the largest aggregation of viewers. We are trying to ensure through the IPL that we can access anybody who has an Internet-enabled device. We will offer the IPL for free at least for this year. We want to be the largest aggregator of the audience ever seen in India. Advertisers will have the choice of viewers that they want to target. We want to play across the price paradigm. What I mean by that is at the top end you have CTVs and at the bottom end, you have people who use Free to Air channels. All have access to a mobile phone. We want anybody who has an Internet-enabled device to end up watching the IPL. We want a presence everywhere –urban, rural, male, female, North, South.”

He noted that the company will evaluate the free option after this year. Several metrics will be looked at and revenue is one of the metrics. He added that digital is already bigger than television. TV ratings he noted have been coming down. The IPL has not been an exception. JioCinema’s game plan with the IPL is to cut across Axis, affordability, and languages. “We will be doing 16 feeds across 12 languages. And we will provide unique experiences like multicam. Advertisers love it for similar reasons but different parameters. The scale that digital offers means that IPL will be bigger on digital than TV. 

“Advertisers also love digital in general because you can choose which audience that you want to target. You can target someone in Chennai who speaks a certain language and who is of a certain age group and has a certain level of affluence. You can also measure and have a call to action. That is the reason why digital advertising has been growing quite fast.” He added that with the Fifa World Cup, the demand from viewers and advertisers was much bigger on digital than it was on TV. Even for WPL, the interest is more for digital from advertisers than on TV. “Advertisers’ first preference seems to be digital. Their interest is significantly skewed towards digital. We are targeting advertisers who associate with live sports. This is a big, large growing market. The number of advertisers is growing quite fast due to digital.” If matches are increased digital benefits because it is sold on impressions, not on an average rating.

On the tech side, he said that the aim is to provide a high-quality premium long-form content experience which has not happened anywhere in the world digitally. This strategy is not about comparing it to any other medium. “We are building towards making the IPL the biggest event that the world has ever seen. We have had to invest significantly in technology. We want to deliver a high-quality experience on the mobile side. This is what a lot of the technology development experience is focussed on. We want to work with every telecom player. Consumers come from everywhere. The aim is to make the IPL as large as it is going to be. We believe that digital is the best medium through which we can deliver a world-class experience. From a business case standpoint, we look at events that can deliver that when the rights of property come up. Our focus lies on digital and CTVs.” 

On the potential for CTV, he said that over the last two years HDTV viewing has almost collapsed. The number of homes in the single-digit millions who watch the IPL on HDTV. “It is fairly obvious that all of them have migrated towards watching Connected TVs because data costs are low, and there are many Smart TVs. There are multiple ways to watch CTV. You can cast it, use TV apps, use Chrome cast, Fire TV stick. CTV has become what HDTV is with the advantage of giving you addressability, targeting those digital offers. Through CTV you can deliver 4K which is not possible through HDTV or linear TV.” 

He said that the buffering issue was seen in the first two days of the Fifa World Cup. But by the time the final came, there was a peak concurrent viewing of 12 million. This worked buffer free. But realising that this is the IPL the company has invested from a people point of view and an infrastructure point of view. The company has signed up technology partners who he said are the world’s best in making this happen.

Talking about the company’s bid for the WPL he said that one cannot plan for what the competition will or will not do. The WPL followed a closed bidding process. “You have to go in with what your business case is. You have to be pretty confident that your business cases will be achieved. The first is financial which is the top line, bottom line etc. The second is that the brand reputation gets enhanced. Along those metrics, we were quite sure that this was the right value. We are quite happy to own the rights for WPL. The Under19 World Cup win came as a shot in the arm for us. Every property that we acquire should make money. Nobody has ever bought the rights to a sports property and said that it was cheap. To be honest this does not happen for any asset. 

“The good thing is all the sports bets that I have been involved in have proven to be successful. This country has a significant appetite for sports consumption. While people love to buy things cheap we want to buy the right asset even if it is at a premium and it has to meet the financial and brand objectives.”

He noted that often when rights are won people feel that the sum of money being paid is huge. But at the end of the tenure usually, if the strategy is right the property tends to be an invaluable asset. He explains that while there is the larger goal of aggregating audiences every event needs to stand on its own. “Every property needs to deliver in terms of both the business and the brand metrics. The economics have to add up.” He noted that the BCCI rights are certainly big. “Any event that has big names playing will always have great value. It is about how you market it and what the future looks like”

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