CEO Bob Bakish: IPL Cricket Key to Paramount+ Indian Launch in 2023

When Viacom18 — which is 49% owned by Paramount Global — earlier this year paid 205 billion rupees ($2.6 billion) for the streaming rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) covering 410 cricket matches over a five-year period, the move was seen as a potential blow to Disney+ — and a win for Paramount+.

Speaking Aug. 4 on the fiscal call, Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global, reiterated why the media giant and The Walt Disney Co. spent a combined $5.6 billion on rights to a sport most Americans have never heard of.

“Cricket is at the top of the food chain in India,” Bakish said.

Indeed, since the launch of Disney+ in late 2019, the IPL has played a key role in the SVOD’s burgeoning subscriber growth. Disney acquired the cricket rights through its acquisition of 20th Century Fox Studios from Fox Corp. The studio’s Hotstar streaming platform currently holds the IPL rights. Disney retains the linear rights.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

How that plays out for Disney+ is the $64,000 question. Currently Hotstar with the IPL represents more than 50 million Disney+ subscribers, or almost 37% of the SVOD’s subscriber base. Without the IPL, that percentage is likely to plummet and shrinking the Disney+ global subscriber base significantly.

Bakish said Paramount+ plans to offer cricket as part of a “hard bundle” tiered pricing plan, benefiting from the association while not directly investing financially as a distributor.

“It will be a real engine for streaming,” Bakish said. “And Paramount+ will benefit by being part of that … because we get the very material benefit of cricket.”

Disney+ Loses Indian Professional Cricket Streaming Rights to Paramount+

In a potential blow to SVOD subscriber growth in India, Disney lost out on its bid to retain Disney + Hotstar streaming rights to Indian Premiere League cricket. Disney lost the rights to Viacom18 — an Indian subsidiary of Paramount Global, parent to the Paramount+ streaming service.

Disney reportedly paid a record 236 billion rupees ($3 billion), while Viacom18 — which is 49% owned by Paramount Global — paid 205 billion rupees ($2.6 billion) for the streaming rights covering 410 matches over a five-year period.

The streaming rights to cricket have been key to driving Disney+ subscriber growth past 137 million in the most-recent fiscal period that ended March 31. Of that tally, more than 50 million subs come from India — largely due to IPL cricket, which is a national sport.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The winning bid could factor significantly in the success of Paramount+, which is set to launch service in India in 2023 together with Viacom18.

“This year will be monumental for our streaming strategy as we accelerate our global ambitions, rapidly expanding Paramount+ in Europe beginning with the U.K., Italy, Germany, France and more by the end of this year and debut in Asia with South Korea in June,” Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of international networks, studios and streaming at Paramount Global, said in a statement last month.

Viacom18/Paramount Global reportedly beat out third-party bids from Sony and Amazon Prime Video.

Disney Suspends Disney+ SVOD Service Launch in India

Disney has called off the March 29 launch of its branded subscription streaming video service, Disney+, in India due to myriad issues involving the global coronavirus pandemic. The planned March 24 launch of the service in Europe remains on.

With India halting all commercial airline traffic within its borders and the suspension of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, Disney planned promotions around the service’s launch with its Hotstar over-the-top video platform came to a halt. Hotstar reportedly generates more than 300 million monthly views with its app and website.

Follow us on Instagram

“We recently announced that Disney Plus would launch in India through the Hotstar service in conjunction with beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season,” Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company APAC, and chairman of Star and Disney India, said in a statement. “Given the delay of the [cricket] season, we have made the decision to briefly pause the roll-out of Disney Plus and will announce a new revised premiere date for the service soon.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!