Editor’s Note: The article was initially published at Medianama and has been cross posted with due consent.
Update: Times Internet says that they found more financial and strategic benefit in partnering with STAR. The statement: “This year, we saw more financial and strategic benefit in co-distributing with Star, rather than with YouTube. That being said, we’ve had a great relationship with YouTube, and continue to work with YouTube on a number of fronts.”
Earlier today: The Indian Premier League (IPL) will not be streamed online on YouTube this year: Times Internet has tied up with STAR India for digital distribution this time. STAR will provide streaming and video on demand content on StarSports.com, the Star Sports app, and on mobile operator services powered by Star Sports. Times Internet will distribute IPL streaming and video on demand on its cricket destination on web and mobile, powered by a starsports.com video player. Both companies will market the services, but what’s interesting here is that Star India will be solely responsible for advertising sales.
Times Internet claims that last year, IPL witnessed a 56% growth in unique visitors online , with over 200 million video views on BoxTV and YouTube. However, as per data released by the company last year, IPL had recorded “a 52% growth viewership over 2012 (75.2M vs 49.3M last year), and the combined viewership of users watching highlights and clips had increased by 480% growth in watch hours over 2012.
STAR’s Big Bet On Sports & Claims Of Ownership of Scores
For STAR, this is an opportunity to attract potential viewers and advertisers to its StarSports.com property, which it launched early last year. In September, it added Paid Live Streaming. STAR is putting big money behind sports in India: in November it announced that it’s planning to invest Rs 20,000 crore on sports in India, Rs 1500 crore of which it is putting into Hockey. In December 2013, it won the sponsorship rights for the Indian Cricket Team.
However, STAR’s claim over the online rights comes with its own baggage: attempts to prevent coverage of events, and the introduction of “quasi property rights” and “Hot News”. Over the last year and a half, STAR has been involved in a court case against Idea Cellular, Cricbuzz and OnMobile Global*, trying to prevent them from distributing Cricket scores and commentary via SMS, and has used the injunctions and judgments it has received in its favor (although, eventually, it lost the case at the division bench of the Delhi High Court), to ensure that mobile app developers don’t distribute scores. Multi Screen Media has recently filed a case against ESPNCricinfo, Cricbuzz and Radio One based on the same premise of Hot News, except that this time it effects online reporting (scorecards, Cricket scores and ball by ball commentary).
In that context, the Times of India, whose Internet company Times Internet has licensed the rights to STAR wrote a particularly detailed article about MSM’s claim over Cricket related facts. We might find that STAR begins similar proceedings related to the IPL once the tournament begins, and then it will get interesting.
YouTube’s History With The IPL
YouTube has, since it first took the IPL rights and unleashed a fairly massive advertising campaign to pitch IPL on YouTube to both advertisers and viewers, leveraged the property to build its own advertiser base. Overall viewership on YouTube has grown to around 55 million unique visitors a month now, and given the apparent volume of advertising on YouTube, it’s got the advertisers it wanted to attract to the property. We’re not sure if YouTube ever made a profit from its IPL association, but the long term implication is that it used the IPL to kickstart advertising on video. So are live, attention-grabbing-advertiser-attracting properties no longer a focus for YouTube? It appears that isn’t the case.
While YouTube hasn’t commented on why it didn’t share the rights for the IPL, they did say that they’re going to continue to focus on live sports: ”Live-streaming of popular sports events make the YouTube experience more dynamic for fans around the world, and we hope to continue sharing exciting tournaments through our platform. Our partnership with Times Internet was very successful and we will continue to explore opportunities to work together in future,” the company told us in response to a query about why the partnership has ended. Times Internet is yet to respond.
Times Internet Rights
A consortium led by Times Internet had acquired the global rights to the Indian Premier League for Internet, Mobile, Radio and Television (for certain territories), and was planning to pay a total rights fee of Rs 261.6 crore (Averages out to Rs 65.5 crore per year) rupees for the four year period, 2011-14.
In a sense, this is the year that Times Internet has, to recover the money it has paid / has to pay the BCCI for the rights: This is the last year that Times Internet has the digital rights, and we won’t be surprised if STAR makes a bid for them next year.