Hotstar will offer free broadcasting of cricket tournaments on mobile devices in India, following the success of rival JioCinema in attracting millions of spectators with a similar strategy in the cricket-crazed nation. Hotstar announced on Friday that users would receive free access to the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. After acquiring the internet rights from Hotstar, JioCinema broadcast the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the most lucrative annual sporting events, for free.
In the first five weeks of the tournament, the broadcasting joint venture of the Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries received a record 13 billion digital views, with each observer spending an average of one hour per match. CLSA estimates that Hotstar’s subscriber base decreased by roughly 5 million consumers following the loss of IPL rights.
According to company executives, while JioCinema is preparing to begin charging consumers for content, IPL streaming will remain free. Cricket is the most popular sport in the world’s most populous nation, where an estimated 700 million smartphone users fuel the majority of digital consumption.
Karan Taurani, an analyst at Elara Capital, said that if free cricket offerings were to persist over the long term, they could exacerbate losses for streaming platforms or lead to consolidation, as many platforms may not be able to sustain with reduced revenue per user. Freemium, a hybrid revenue model that relies on both subscription fees and ad sales, is the best revenue model for streaming platforms in India, according to Taurani, who noted that content costs are high and digital ad competition is fierce.