Viacom18 eyeing for grand entry in sports broadcasting; likely to launch new sports channel

Viacom18 has been steadily expanding its sports offerings with the network recently signing multi-year deals with several global sports competitions.

Viacom18, a joint venture between American entertainment conglomerate ViacomCBS and Mukesh Ambani’s Network18 is all set to make a grand entry into the arena of sports broadcasting.

The joint venture has become highly active in the sports sector arena in the past few months. It has acquired media rights of various sports leagues for the Indian subcontinent.

They initiated their sports media rights venture in 2020 when they acquired the media rights for the triangular series – ‘Nidahas Trophy’ played between India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, the series was aired on its movie channel Rishtey Cineplex (now known as Colors Cineplex). The media rights of that tournament were shared with Discovery Communications’ sports channel DSport.

It had also attained the media rights to air the ‘Road Safety World Series‘ – a cricket league featuring legends who have retired from international cricket. Former cricketers such as Sachin Tendulkar, Jonty Rhodes, Brett Lee, Brian Lara, etc were featured in the league.

Earlier this year, Viacom18 had also acquired the broadcasting rights of La Liga in India. The Spanish league which is considered to be one of Europe’s top five leagues now gets aired on Viacom18’s channel MTV while being also available for live streaming on Jio platforms and Voot in India.

This broadcasting deal arrived after the social media giant Facebook refused to renew its agreement with La Liga post the 2020-21 season. Sony Network, who telecasted La Liga in India in the past, was also in contention for bagging the TV rights but Viacom18 won the battle in the end.

Earlier this month, Viacom18 also bagged the exclusive TV and digital rights for the Abu Dhabi T10 cricket league. The multi-year agreement will see the league streamed LIVE on Colors Cineplex SD (Hindi), Colors Cineplex HD (English), Rishtey Cineplex (Hindi) and over the top (OTT) platform Voot and Jio.

While speaking about the partnership, Nina Elavia Jaipuria, Head of Hindi mass entertainment and kids TV network, Viacom 18 said, “Sporting events have always attracted a wide spectrum of audiences and we have been successfully experimenting with sports content on our network. The Abu Dhabi T10 collaboration is a bold step in further enhancing our sports content mix and we are hopeful it will help us expand our viewer and sponsor base.”

Soon after acquiring the media rights for the Abu Dhabi T10 league, Mukesh Ambani’s backed Viacom 18 signed another broadcasting deal with the Italian top-tier football league Serie A in India.

The agreement will see Viacom18 covering the Italian league for three years starting with the 2021/22 season.

It is also important to note that Reliance Jio also currently owns the rights to broadcast and stream English Football League Cup (Carabao Cup) and shares them with the English music channel VH1.

According to reports, Viacom18 is also planning to bid for the media rights of IPL 2022. Along with Jio, several more companies participated in the media rights auction for the cycle of 2018-2021 but all of them fell short of Star India’s bid of Rs 16,347 crores.

BCCI will be releasing the tender of media rights for IPL 2022 later this year, we are set to witness an intense battle between broadcasting and streaming giants Viacom18, SonyDisney, and Star.

In a recent interview when Nina Elavia Jaipuria, Head of Hindi Mass Entertainment at Viacom 18 Media was asked the question, ‘Will Viacom18 launch its sports portfolio sometime soon?’ She replied saying, “We are always exploring white spaces.”

She further added, “We are getting into sports to evoke emotion, to establish ourselves as a wholesome entertainer. However, launching a sports portfolio is a tough, expensive business call as it has a very high entry barrier and a lot of it has to be measured before you take that call. It has to be a serious, strategic long-term discussion.

Disney-owned Star India and Viacom18 Media received fresh TV channel licenses from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).

The data stated above gives us a strong hint, how the Mukesh Ambani-backed Network18’s entry with the help of its subsidiary Viacom18 into sports broadcasting is going to get bigger in the coming months. It is likely that the company will soon be launching a new sports channel for the Indian subcontinent to cater to a large chunk of sports fans in the country.

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