Amazon Prime Video now has one more weapon in its arsenal to get to more viewers in India and boost its revenues at a time when OTTs are struggling to turn in profits – ad-supported cricket live streaming of the India vs New Zealand Men’s Series 2022.
“Sports streaming is a good category of content and brings in significant new and loyal users to OTT platforms. Disney+ Hotstar built a strong cricket-streaming product and a huge customer base who followed cricket. SonyLIV has also done the same. Today most of the cricket digital streaming rights are with Hotstar, SonyLIV and Viacom 18 and so are the customers,” says Uday Sodhi, Senior Partner, Kurate Digital Consulting, and former SonyLIV head.
Prime Video is streaming the three T20 matches and three ODI matches between November 18 and November 30 as part of India’s touring of the island nation. Recently, it launched a mobile-only edition for Rs 599 per year and a six-part mini-series ‘Taking Guard: India’s Quest for Kiwi Glory’ on the cricketing rivalry between the two countries.
The platform, with an estimated 28 million subscribers in India, has brought on board at least eight sponsors for the matches – presenting sponsor Airtel Xstream Fiber, associate sponsors MPL, Nescafé, Noise, OLX Autos and Vida. Brands including AMFI and DBS also advertise on the OTT platform during the matches.
Rival Disney+ Hotstar, the largest OTT player in India by user base, was the only other platform to offer brands access to ultra-premium audiences at scale on live sports. For Amazon Prime Video to really get more eyeballs and the money flowing through sports streaming the way Disney+ Hotstar did with cricket IPL T20I rights between 2017 and 2022, it will need to get its hands on the more popular India cricket series, experts say.
The OTT platform from broadcaster Star India’s stables held the exclusive digital streaming rights for marquee cricketing event IPL T20I from 2017-2022. A Kotak Institutional Equities report pegs that the platform made ad revenues of Rs 1,100 crore in the 2022 season, which is a steady rise year-on-year. Besides, a large part of its more than 50 million users in India were also amassed through the tournament. However, it has lost the rights to Viacom18 for the 2023-27 cycle.
“Amazon Prime would not have seen a big number like the kind of numbers cricket normally gets. That’s because this particular cricket series is not a major one and it falls just after the World Cup, so people already have had an overdose, plus some of the big stars are not playing. It’s not a major revenue source for them yet,” says Madan Mohapatra, an independent marketing and media consultant. A one-off series may not help Amazon in the long run. Sports needs to be part of a long-term strategy to build loyalty to the platform, Sodhi adds. “Sixty days of IPL cannot be compared with 12 days of action in the India-NZ series. A combination of quality content with extremely low pricing will do the magic in pushing its 28 million-strong subscriber base to may be 50 million in the near future,” says Rajeev Dhal, Chief Business Officer, Aqilliz, and former Chief Revenue Officer of ZEE5.
Sports streaming, while an eyeball magnet, is also an expensive proposition with challenging revenue recovery. This is where advertisers become helpful for the platforms. The ad-supported sports packages will help Amazon gain a significant user base in the Indian OTT market and viewership will be inversely proportional to ad-load, Dhal adds. “With low ad load, the tolerance of watching ads is high at user’s end. Brands will get access to a premium user base at scale and they will be able to segment and target sharper cohorts using content preference and purchase behaviour-based signals. This is a very potent combination and it’s a great opportunity of win-win-win for Amazon Prime Video, the subscriber and the advertiser,” says Dhal. Mohapatra agrees. “Amazon Prime has a certain clientele. That primary audiences are maybe a slightly more affluent households, maybe younger consumers. It leads to a lot sharper targeting, that’s what advertisers want. It’s a win-win for both the platform and advertisers,” he says.
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