Venkata Susmita Biswas

Viacom18 to stream FIFA World Cup on separate sports app?

CCI on Monday approved amalgamation of the Jio Cinema OTT platform with Viacom 18 Media

Viacom18 is said to be preparing to test its sports OTT app with the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. According to highly placed sources, the company's ad sales executives are pitching a new app as the streaming destination for the tournament.

Following the new app's debut this year, the exclusive platform for sports content is likely to host the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches, starting in 2023.

During the parent company's quarterly earnings call, Paramount Global chief Robert Bakish hinted at this. He said, “It (IPL) is going to be a part of a streaming offering for the Indian market that Viacom18 is going to launch in 2023.” 

In a related development, the Competition Commission of India on Monday notified on Twitter that it has approved the "amalgamation of the Jio Cinema OTT platform with Viacom 18 Media, following an investment by BTS (Bodhi Tree Systems) Investment and Reliance Projects & Property Management Services."

This approval allows Reliance's Jio Cinema app to be transferred to Viacom18 which already operates Voot - a video streaming platform.

In April 2022, Bodhi Tree Systems backed by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar entered into a strategic partnership with Viacom18 and announced a Rs 13,500 crore investment into Viacom18. Reliance Projects & Property Management Services, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries pledged an investmemt of Rs 1,645 crore.

Until now, all the sports content was streamed on Viacom18’s OTT app - Voot. This is set to change with the introduction of the new app.

Sources also suggest that in the initial phase this year, the app could be a fully AVoD platform. Senior media executives are concerned about whether, or not, a new platform will be able to attract new users for a premium media property, such as the FIFA World Cup. 

In June 2022, Reliance Industries (RIL), Bodhi Tree, and Paramount-backed Viacom18 bid Rs 23,758 crore to bag IPL digital media rights for the Indian subcontinent. It has also bagged international media rights for the league for markets like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Caribbean, South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the UK, Ireland and Continental Europe, for Rs 595 crore.

Earlier this year, Viacom18 launched Sports18, a sports channel. Sports18 Khel a free-to-air channel for Hindi sports content. Sports18 telecasts several international sports properties, including NBA, LaLiga, Ligue1, Serie A, Abu Dhabi T10, BWF and ATP.

An e-mail to the Sports18 team from afaqs! about this development, went unanswered until the time of publication of this piece.  

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