By Hugo Barcia
New Delhi, Nov 17 (EFE).- The long duration of cricket matches, which can reach eight or nine hours, has revolutionized the broadcasting of the World Cup underway in India with all its games available for free streaming on the internet.
Downloading the Disney+ Hotstar app, a platform that owns the TV and digital rights to broadcast the World Cup in India, is the only requirement to watch the matches without having to buy even its basic plan, which costs about $11 per year
This has caused the number of people watching the games to skyrocket, along with advertising revenue.
It has now become common to find people in India watching the Cricket World Cup matches live on their phones while walking down a street or sometimes even driving.
With a population of 1.4 billion people, and one of the cheapest mobile internet rates in the world, it is not surprising that Wednesday’s semi-final between India and New Zealand was viewed by a record 50 million digital viewers.
This revolution has been occurring in the one-day format of 50 overs for each side – which takes some eight hours to complete – rather than the more recent and largely popular T20 (20 overs), which is much shorter in duration.
“A lot of people consume it on their mobile phone while going to office or while in office or on the way,” Indian sports analyst Joy Bhattacharjya told EFE.
The expert said fans closely follow India’s matches, especially if the games are tight, while in the case of other countries “they are tracking, they’re coming in, they’re watching a bit, they’re watching the highlights, they’re watching crucial moments.”
The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) head of the Digital department, Finn Bradshaw, who recounted how they have adapted the broadcast of the World Cup to the revolution that this sport is experiencing.
“There’s things of interest that happen all the time that can kind of trigger you back into a game. What we and our partners try to do is really use the digital platforms to tell people it’s time to tune in,” he explained to EFE.
To capture the attention of viewers, broadcasting focuses on specific moments of the encounter and sends them automatic notifications with key moves or posts on social networks.
Another challenge that cricket faces is finding new viewers, Bradshaw added, for which they have relied on content creators to target people in the 18-35 age group.
While most of its content is aimed at Indian viewers, who account for around 60 percent of the digital audience, he also underlined the need to expand to other international markets beyond South Asia, such as the United States and Germany among others.
Cricket’s popularity is expected to increase in the coming years, especially in the wake of its recent designation as an Olympic sport in Los Angeles 2028.
Disney+ Hotstar’s revolutionary strategy, however, raises doubts among several experts who consider that the numbers don’t fit, and the high viewership will not compensate for the losses of potential subscribers who would have paid to watch the World Cup.
“I think they wanted to really open up this to masses in a very large way and try and test the market and try and see if they can get higher ad revenues which will be able to offset the negative impact of zero sport revenues,” investment firm Elara Capital’s senior vice president Karan Taurani told EFE.
“But I don’t foresee that they will be able to kind of compensate for the pay based revenue,” he added, explaining that the platform was trying to close a major subscriber gap since losing the India’s T20 cricket league’s broadcasting rights in 2022.
As of now, the platform’s decision has led the World Cup to break several viewership records from previous championships, and generate increased advertising revenues in the digital sector.
A recent report by Elara Capital estimated that the world cup would generate about $250 million from advertising, of which $120-144 million would come from the digital sphere.
The previous 50-over cricket world cup held in England and the Wales in 2019 generated approximately $60 million from advertising, reflecting the growth in digital consumption that India has been witnessing. EFE