Viacom18 bagged the television and digital broadcast rights for BCCI last week. The Reliance-owned network took over the mandate from Disney Star, the former home of Indian cricket.
In the last year, Disney Star has also lost the digital broadcast rights of the IPL, HBO has moved out its content from the platform in India, Formula 1 ended its long-lasting relation with the player to launch its own streaming app in India.
Following this, Campaign India posed the question: After losing out on the BCCI broadcast rights, what next for Disney Star? Can it sustain in the Indian market?
Ashish Bhasin, founder, The Bhasin Consulting Group
Disney Star is a well-established global name, and India is too important a market for them not to have a significant presence here. Yes, it is a loss, because as we know cricket is a universally viewed event in India. But ultimately, I don’t think a viewer really watches a channel so much as they actually watch good content, wherever that may be. And the market has more than enough space for several players.
So the answer to this question in my view will lie in their ability to generate fresh content – both global as well as in Indian content, and in their ability to consistently bring newer engaging content to the market on an ongoing basis.
It's easy to do that as a one-time effort or as a short-term effort. The difficulty lies in being able to sustain it over a long period of time. And that will need a rethink of content and a revamp of strategy. I think Disney Star has the experience and capability to do so, though it won’t be an easy ride. It never is, in India.
Sandeep Goyal, chairperson and managing director, Rediffusion
Disney Star is now being run by global management and is no longer willing to invest in properties that are visibly losing money. Even ont he IPL they are quite stressed. Overall they have surrendered their space of 'the home of Indian cricket'. These are short term financial fixes but will result in tremendous loss of brand equity.
Gaurav Bahirvani, CEO, One One Six Network Limited
The Disney Star merger has done more for Disney than for Star. With Burbank calling the shots for almost every move in India, it seems the American headquarters doesn’t seem very bullish towards wagering their money on cricket, anymore. See, the Americans don’t understand the emotional value of cricket as much as Indians do, hence their investment decisions will largely be driven by forecasted economic returns. Bob Iger is a sharp leader. When he took over last year, he was crystal clear about his plans to cut down costs in sports and non-sports related content. So when it comes to cricket investments in India, if they don’t see the future green, Disney won’t push the bar beyond a point. This is exactly what happened with the IPL rights, F1 rights and more recently its divorce with HBO shows on HotStar.
I think it’s a bit immature to question the longevity or rather sustainability of Disney Star in this market. Of course they will survive, but not necessarily as leaders. They won’t be taking investment decisions based on ego anymore. And let’s be real, when it comes to cricket, besides the BCCI no one else really makes money. Broadcasters and rights holders have struggled for over a decade to see their investments make real profits. Interestingly, Disney Star has realised this after burning their fingers and is no longer going to be part of that mad race. With Viacom18 now replacing Disney Star in terms of sports rights portfolio, only time will tell if they made the right decisions.
Nikhil Sharma, founder, CEO, zlait Sports Management
From a purely business financials perspective Disney Star seem to be in a consolidation mode. Star has been leading the Indian sports broadcasting game for a good decade and half now.
ESPN, Zee Sports, Ten and Sony despite their best efforts weren’t able to dominate the sports market which looks to have changed with Reliance Jio - Viacom 18 combining to exert themselves in the market.
The current consolidation might not be a bad strategy for Disney Star and there could be two-three factors for the same. The broadcasting valuations despite the fall (i.e. BCCI rights) might still be high and not great ROI for them.
Disney Star can’t leverage cross subsidisation or invest in growth phase like Jio can currently. Jio has bundled Jio Cinema with its mobile, data and fibre plans being sold.
Reliance through its Jio Mobile and fibre business has built a direct to customer approach. Disney Star doesnt have this benefit and for its core business has to rely on and share revenue with partners.
Despite booming internet penetration and subscription sales; India still remains a heavy cable-dish TV market, so in the immediate future TV rights have as much salience if not more than digital rights.
This day and age bilateral cricket might not be top of viewers interest list, there is a certain discretion that fans now have about consuming content on a regular basis. Bilateral cricket seems to have fallen down that pecking order.
Disney Star currently do have the bigger tournaments like World Cup and Asia Cup along with IPL TV rights. I do believe there is a paradigm shift in the way they are approaching their gameplay and the key word trickling down from Disney’s Burbank headquarters seems to be ROI.
Jio meanwhile is currently in its growth phase and seems to be hitting the big ones out of the park for a great share of eyeballs.