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Disney loses bid for rights to stream Indian Premier League cricket matches.

Disney loses bid for rights to stream Indian Premier League cricket matches.

Viacom18 has won the rights to stream a package of popular cricket matches from the Indian Premier League, according to two people with knowledge of bidding, and snatched a significant weapon in the streaming wars away from one of its most important rivals, the Walt Disney Company.

The agreement makes Viacom18 – a joint venture between Paramount and India’s Reliance Industries – an increasingly strong player in the Indian media market. It could also slow down Disney’s quest to reach between 230 million and 260 million Disney + subscribers globally by 2024.

Viacom18 paid almost $ 3 billion for the rights in an auction on Monday, according to the people, who only wanted to speak anonymously because the bids were private. That price is a significant increase from the $ 2.5 billion that 21st Century Fox paid for the combined TV and streaming rights package in 2017. Disney took over the rights when they bought Fox in 2019.

It still remains to be determined the outcome of an auction that will award a smaller package of non-exclusive streaming rights.

A Disney spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The cricket rights auction was a messy equation for Disney. The company has at least 50.1 million subscribers in India, but they do not pay as much as their counterparts in the United States. For Disney, the auction meant paying a premium to keep subscribers with relatively low incomes or hand over valuable property to their rivals in the region.

While Disney risks some erosion of subscribers in the Disney + business in India, the company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, has said that cricket matches are “not crucial” in achieving the subscriber goals.

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By securing the power rights, Viacom18 gets a marking property for its power service. The company recently received a $ 1.78 billion infusion from Bodhi Tree Systems, an investment company created by former 21st Century Fox executives James Murdoch and Uday Shankar.

Since its inception 15 years ago, the Indian Premier League, the world’s largest cricket league, has transformed the once regular match into a commercial juggernaut. To $ 13.4 million per game, the league’s broadcasting agreement means that Indian cricket, on a per-match basis, surpasses English Premier League football (approximately $ 11 million per match).

Cricketers have become well-known names, earned multi-million dollar contracts, and viewership for the league has increased on streaming platforms, although the number of TV viewers has fallen this year.

Sameer Yasir contributed with reporting.

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