How Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance-Disney tie-up can change cricket viewing in India - Hindustan Times

How Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance-Disney tie-up can change cricket viewing in India

ByVaishnawi Sinha
Mar 01, 2024 09:17 AM IST

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries sealed the merger deal with Disney Star, creating a mega media entity in India set to change cricket viewing forever.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries limited sealed the much-awaited merger deal with Disney Star this week, which will create the biggest media entity in India. This new entity is aimed at giving a push to Reliance's own OTT platform Jio Cinema, and dominating the cricket viewing rights space.

Disney and Reliance have sealed the deal on their mega media merger(REUTERS)
Disney and Reliance have sealed the deal on their mega media merger(REUTERS)

Reliance Industries and Disney put the combined value of their media streaming assets at $8.5 billion. Ambani's Reliance and its affiliates will own more than 63% of the merged entity, with Disney owning 37%.

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The Reliance-Disney entity will become India's top TV player boasting over 120 channels, with Zee Entertainment falling second with over 50 total TV channels.

This dominance over television and streaming platforms is expected to change the course of cricket viewing in India. Over the last few years, Hotstar and Reliance have jostled for IPL telecast rights.

Disney's Hotstar is India's largest OTT platform with 38 million paid users. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video do not disclose their India numbers, but industry analysts estimate they have 20 million and 6.5 million paid users, respectively.

Upper hand in cricket viewing

Both Reliance and Disney have spent billions of dollars in the past to purchase broadcast rights for many top tournaments, including the Indian Premier League and International Cricket Council's India tournaments.

Cricket accounted for 85% of the total sports industry revenue in India during 2022, according to media agency GroupM. As Disney and Reliance combine, analysts at Jefferies estimate the group will have the "most lucrative cricketing rights" with a 40% share of the advertising market, ahead of rivals Sony and India's Zee.

A single 10-second slot for advertisement during cricket matches can go as high as over 24 lakh, while the comparable slot during a football match in India goes for around 2.4 lakh, reported Reuters. As both Jio Cinema and Disney+ Hotstar own the majority of the cricket rights in India, this could bring in major revenue for the company, increasing its value in the market.

Indian lawyers, however, caution that the combined power of Disney-Reliance's cricket broadcasting - both in digital and TV space - could draw antitrust scrutiny.

Analysts at India's Ambit Capital said the merged entity may also have to absorb losses of up to $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion in coming years due to aggressive cricket rights bidding by companies, with other companies also having a strong foothold in digital advertising offerings.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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