In a significant development in the world of Indian sports, Viacom18, under the stewardship of Reliance Industries Ltd, has clinched the exclusive media rights for broadcasting and live-streaming the Indian Super League (ISL) football matches for the next two seasons. This marks a historic shift as Viacom18 takes over from Disney Star, the official broadcaster for the past nine seasons.
The upcoming 10th season of ISL is poised to kick off on September 21, featuring a match between Kerala Blasters FC and Bengaluru FC in Kochi. This season promises to be a game-changer, not just on the field but also in the realm of media coverage.
Disney Star opted not to renew its rights for the ISL after the 2022-23 season due to persistent losses and waning viewership. The Football Sports Development Ltd (FSDL), the organizing body behind the ISL, faced financial challenges, reporting losses in recent years. With the conclusion of Disney Star's 10-year agreement with FSDL, the door was open for other broadcasters. However, with Reliance's significant stake in the league (65%), competitors like Sony Pictures Networks India and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd were not in contention for the media rights.
FSDL, with the assistance of sports agency Octagon, initiated the auction process, setting a base price of ₹275 crore for each season, amounting to ₹550 crore for the two-year rights. The agreement also holds the potential for a three-year extension.
Despite the high stakes, FSDL received only two bids and eventually awarded the media rights at the base price. The exact financial terms of the deal remain undisclosed. Viacom18's digital streaming platform, Jio Cinema, will broadcast ISL matches for free, aiming to reach a wider audience. This move follows their successful streaming of events like the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the 2023 Indian Premier League.
Both FSDL and Viacom18 expressed optimism about their partnership. Viacom18 sees the ISL as a driving force behind football's development in India and plans to leverage its digital capabilities to engage new-age sports fans. FSDL, on the other hand, believes that Viacom18's track record and commitment align perfectly with their vision of growing football consumption in India. As the ISL embarks on its 10th year, this partnership between FSDL and Viacom18 promises to not only transform the league's media coverage but also fuel the growing enthusiasm for football in the country.
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