Nisha Qureshi

What’s behind Disney Star’s decision to air some IPL matches on Star Utsav Movies

We speak to experts about what Disney Star’s decision to air some IPL matches on its FTA channel, means for the network itself as well as the advertisers. 

India is a price-sensitive market. While some may look at it as a challenge, Reliance saw this an opportunity early on when it launched Jio telecom services across the nation for free and was able to capture a large chunk of the market. 

Fast forward to today, Jio Cinema, in partnership with Viacom18, is set to stream the biggest sporting tournament in the country – Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 – for free. 

Prior to this, IPL’s broadcast as well as streaming rights, were with Disney Star. However, this time around, with the streaming rights split between the two entities, the battle to attract both advertisers and viewers, has reached a fever pitch. 

In a direct move to counter Viacom18, Disney Star recently announced that this year, it will telecast 12 matches on its free-to-air (FTA) channel Star Utsav Movies. 

We spoke to some experts to understand what the move will mean for Disney Star as well as the advertisers. 

According to Mayank Shah, senior category head at Parle Products, historically, IPL viewership has been more inclined towards urban audiences. He says that rural audiences have not taken to the IPL as much as their urban counterparts. 

He shares, “Today, it (Disney Star) is looking at rural audiences. A majority of rural TV viewership, happens through FTA channels. Now, how else do you get them to sample the IPL with a hope that if they like it, they may subscribe to Star Network?” 

Calling IPL 2023 as a game for eyeballs, Shah mentions that he won’t be surprised if Disney Star airs all the matches on its FTA channel. “The point to be noted is that Jio has a good penetration in rural areas. Given these circumstances, I think that Star will have a tough competition. Hence, it doesn’t want to lose out on the rural viewership.” 

Rammohan Sundaram, country head – integrated media, DDB Mudra Group, on the other hand, says that Star’s move is not at all aimed at attracting advertisers. “The reason for it airing matches on FTA channel, is pretty simple. The IPL numbers have been falling and the selling prices lately, aren’t cheap. However, the advertisers are looking for as much reach as possible,” he adds. 

“What Star has done, is smart. It has not done it to attract the advertisers. It has done this to increase its reach. It has been done to ensure that it delivers the GRP numbers to the advertisers. It’s a welcome move.” 

Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing at Maruti Suzuki India said, "Disney Star's move to telecast select IPL matches on its FTA channels seems to be an attempt to increase reach of their IPL programming content beyond pay TV households. This additional reach is expected to come from approx 43 mn free dish households (almost 25% of the total TV households) however, it is pertinent to note these free dish users will also have a choice to view IPL matches on DD as well but the programming/packaging will be different between two broadcasters."

"Infact both TV and digital partners are putting their best foot forward this IPL season to maximise reach on their respective platforms, impact of the same will be keenly anticipated. As known to us Star is working on the plans and modalities of offering advertising on their FTA to their IPL broadcast partners," he adds.

Will IPL on FTA channels actually attract advertisers? 

In a normal scenario, FTA channels will attract the top advertisers, given the reach. However, as per Shah of Parle Products, between Jio and Disney Star, the one who attracts more eyeballs, will also attract more advertisers.

“Currently, there are claims and counterclaims from both the sides. Star, on one hand, is saying that nothing can beat our TV viewing experience. Jio, on the other hand, is saying that with its experience during the FIFA World Cup 2022, it expects better traction. Advertisers are analysing the claims. It also depends on brands’ budgets and the kind of targeting they want.” 

Shah explains that the Disney Star’s FTA channel offering, is just an add-on, as far as the advertisers go. Currently, Disney Star provides its content on its FTA channel in the same feed, and the move is meant more for sampling. 

“However, if it does choose to continue it with different feeds, many companies that want to target local markets, will be interested. Currently, I feel that most companies will only get an incremental reach on Star.” 

Explaining Parle’s outlook towards the IPL this season, Shah says that it’s evaluating both the entities. “We’re exploring both the options. We will go ahead with whoever gives us a better deal, in terms of reaching out to more people.” 

On what kind of advertisers may be interested in FTA properties, Amita Yakhmi, vice president – West, Carat, states, “Typically, a brand that targets viewers on Star Sports during the IPL, is not looking at FTA channel viewers. FTA audiences could belong to the TG of deeply penetrated brands in the cola, body soap or biscuit categories. And, as a result, if FTA viewers come onboard, these brands stand to gain incremental reach through the IPL.” 

According to a senior marketing head at an FMCG firm, this year, Viacom is asking for Rs 200 per CPM (10 seconds). Star, on the other hand, is asking for Rs 18-19 lakh per 10 seconds. 

Mukesh Ghuraiya, chief marketing officer, Modi Naturals, feels that with free digital streaming on Jio, the advertisers will have to choose their medium carefully. 

“With the FTA channel being a part of the Star network, it’s expected to have a massive viewership, especially in rural areas, where digital penetration is still not that strong. This will give advertisers an opportunity to reach out to a wider audience and potentially increase their brand recall,” Ghuraiya states.

(With inputs from Namah Chawla)

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