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2 Jun, 2023 13:05

India’s richest man seeks to challenge Disney and Netflix

Mukesh Ambani’s streaming service has been winning over viewers in his homeland
India’s richest man seeks to challenge Disney and Netflix

India’s JioCinema streaming platform has broken the world record for the most-viewed live-stream event. Experts say the service owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani could shake up global players such as Netflix, Disney and Amazon, which currently dominate the Indian market.

The platform reportedly drew more than 32 million simultaneous viewers for this week’s final of the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Disney+ Hotstar previously held the rights to stream the matches.

According to reports, JioCinema’s parent company, Viacom18, paid 237 billion rupees ($2.8 billion) for IPL streaming rights from 2023 to 2027, but decided to broadcast matches free of charge this year in a bid to attract more viewers.

In April, the company’s studio arm announced it would be spending over $240 million to produce more than 100 movies and TV shows in Indian languages.

“JioCinema has become the biggest platform for live sports. We are now on a mission to build the most magnetic destination for entertainment for all Indians,” the head of Viacom18, Ferzad Palia, was quoted as saying by the Straits Times.

Last week, Viacom18 clinched a deal with NBC Universal Media for content from Universal Television, Sky Studios and Dreamworks Animation. Entertainment content will be available on JioCinema Premium, a paid subscription service launched last month.

India’s streaming market is growing rapidly and has enormous potential in a country of more than 1.4 billion people, with an expanding middle class and rising internet use, analysts say.

The Indian streaming and video-on-demand sector is projected to more than double to $5.3 billion by 2027, up from $2.35 billion last year, according to a report by consultancy Deloitte.

Industry estimates show that Disney+ Hotstar has about 53 million paid subscribers in India, while Amazon Prime Video has around 19 million and Netflix about 8 million.

According to the Straits Times, JioCinema has an advantage in the form of Reliance Industries – also controlled by Ambani – which dominates India’s mobile and broadband markets.

Streaming platforms in India mostly tie up their subscriptions with mobile or broadband plans. Reliance Jio, the telecoms arm of Reliance Industries, has more than 7 million wired broadband subscribers and 473 million mobile subscribers. The company recently halved the price of its cheapest broadband plan to coincide with the start of the IPL season.

A recent report by Media Partners Asia has suggested that JioCinema could be a challenger in India’s streaming market as “the platform has increased its investment in local content and premium international content, setting the stage for the growth of its premium tier.”

With an estimated net worth of over $80 billion, Ambani is the richest person in Asia and was ranked ninth in Forbes’ World Billionaires List 2023.

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