Mumbai: JioCinema, the streaming service owned by Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate, drew more than 1.47 billion video views during the opening weekend of the Indian Premier League - the wildly popular cricket tournament whose digital rights were secured by Asia’s richest man for $2.7 billion last year.
This was the “highest-ever opening weekend” for the annual cricket event, JioCinema said in a statement on Monday, adding that the number of video viewers exceeded last year’s IPL, as well as the ICC T20 World Cup in 2022. The JioCinema app, which is streaming this year’s matches for free, recorded more than 50 million new downloads.
The viewership numbers buttress Ambani’s strategy that has seen the tycoon spend billions of dollars to win the IPL’s digital streaming rights for five years, outbidding global entertainment giants including Walt Disney and Sony Group. Disney in turn paid even more - about $3 billion - for the traditional TV package.
Described as the Super Bowl of cricket, IPL is one of the world’s fastest-growing sporting events, drawing in festival-like crowds and fevered fandom in cricket-crazy India. Ambani’s Reliance Industries hopes the draw of the tournament will help vault it into the club of global media and online streaming behemoths.
By making the matches free to watch, JioCinema, owned by Viacom18 Media - a joint venture between Paramount Global and Reliance - is deploying a familiar price tactic that Ambani has used to become a dominant player in India’s telecom and retail sectors. At the same time, Viacom18 is relying on a massive bump in advertising revenue from the games, Bloomberg has reported in February.
This year’s matches, each lasting a relatively short four hours in length, kicked off on Friday at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad - the world’s largest cricket ground named after the current Indian premier. The tournament’s final will be played on May 28.