Jio’s entry intensifies IPL rights race, Airtel may join

IPL Media Rights

Reliance Jio has joined the race for IPL Media Rights as a serious contender. The Mukesh Ambani group-owned company will make an aggressive bid with multiple gains in sight.

Airtel is being seen as a surprise entry. The mobile network player is reportedly considering this seriously to counter the Jio impact.

Reliance’s entry may pose a serious threat to Sony LIV and HotStar – digital platforms of the two key broadcasters Sony and Star which are in strong contention for the “crucial” rights.

STAR India and HotStar, Sony Pictures Sports Network for television and digital platform SonyLIV, Discovery Communications for DSport, Reliance Jio for digital rights, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, Times Internet, Amazon India, advertising and media giant Group M, social media platforms Facebook and Twitter will be the prominent bidders. Airtel may be a surprise entry.

The Reliance bid is also being considered as very crucial for its telecom space war with Vodafone and Airtel. According to reports the access to IPL digital rights for the next five-year cycle (2018-2022) would help Jio create stickiness and grow its 4G market share amid an expanding online video consumption, which is likely to get a further fillip with the 4G feature phone, JioPhone.

The total number of data subscribers on the 3G/4G platforms is estimated to jump from present 250 million to 450 million in the next 2-3 years. Reliance Jio, which has upset all 4G mobile data market strategies with its free offerings, will also use cricket as a tool to further extend its lead in this sphere.

“We expect Jio to be competitive in the race for IPL digital rights, and incumbent telcos may need to revisit their OTT (over-the-top) strategy as Jio is the only telco whose OTT offerings (JioTV and JioCinema) already feature among the top 10 video streaming apps in terms of monthly active usage during the January-to June 2017 period,” Economic Times has quoted Rajiv Sharma, HSBC director and telecoms analyst, as stating in a note.

This may lead to Reliance submitting a potentially unmatchable bid, which even otherwise is expected to see unprecedented numbers. Hotstar has registered over 200% revenues on its IPL ad sales figures of Rs 65 crore for Season 9 (2016), which surpassed Rs 200 crore this year.

With mobile data users expected to surpass 450 million over the next couple of years, better connectivity, decreasing data costs the digital broadcast space is becoming more and more important.

The IPL Rights tender document is up for sale from Friday (July 21). The last date for buying bid documents is 24 August. The bidding process will close on 28 August and results will be announced the same day.

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