ICC Cricket World Cup: From radio commentary to livestreaming, fans bat for the newest tech

Back during the 1983 Cricket World Cup, most Indians would huddle around a radio for the latest updates from the field. Television sets, and the live visuals of India’s historic victory that year, were limited to a few households in the country.

Cricket World Cup: Fans driving the consumption landscape from radio to livestreaming
Cricket World Cup: Fans driving the consumption landscape from radio to livestreaming

As technology advanced at a blistering pace down the years, the consumption of the game in India, too, has transformed like never before.

In 2011, India won the World Cup again in the 50-over format. This edition also ushered in cricket consumption through OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms.

Though the annual report of the International Cricket Council (ICC) mentions that an event website had been set up for the 2007 World Cup, there is no mention of livestreaming. However, the 2010-11 report stated that the website attracted over 21 million global unique visitors during the 2011 edition. Livestreaming on the ESPN Star Sports website attracted 64 million views, with the semi-final between India and Pakistan alone delivering 10 million views, it said.

Eyeballs in demand

The 2015 World Cup delivered an even bigger score for the ICC website, which clocked more than 304 million page views, with 78 million unique sessions from 36 million people. The videos on the site notched up over 77 million views. The report said these figures helped icc-cricket.com break into the top 1,000 most-visited websites for the first time.

This was the time Star India launched its OTT platform Hotstar. A 2016 report by KPMG-CII, titled ‘The Business of Sports’, mentioned that the platform was launched a fortnight before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. It said the cumulative viewership for all 49 matches of the tournament on Star India’s online properties (starsports.com and hotstar.com) was 87 million that year.

In May 2019, an ICC media statement said that 300 million people in the Indian subcontinent would be able to watch the World Cup that year via digital streaming on Hotstar.

Favourite matches

Hotstar’s India Watch Report for the year said the platform clocked its highest number of viewers — 25.3 million — during the livestreaming of the India-New Zealand semi-final match on July 9, breaking its own previous record of 18.6 million viewers during the IPL final earlier that year. Other top livestreams for the 2019 World Cup edition were the India-Pakistan match on June 16 and the India-England match on June 30.

Uday Shankar, who was then the president of the Walt Disney Company APAC and chairman of Star and Disney India, had stated in the report that online entertainment, which was earlier only available to wealthy people in cities, had expanded into non-metro towns.

With affordable smartphones and abundant access to data, the small screen is becoming the preferred medium of entertainment for a growing number of consumers. An enterprising mix of content and technology was being used to reach these newly emerging consumers across demographics and geographies, he said in the report.

Media rights

In a media release in August 2022, ICC said Disney Star would be the home of all ICC cricket in India for the next four years, with the platform bagging both the TV and digital rights to men’s and women’s global events.

“Disney Star won following a single-round sealed bid process which has yielded a significant uplift to the rights fee from the previous cycle, continuing the impressive growth and reach of cricket,” it said.

Though ICC did not disclose the value of the winning bid, a businessline report cited experts who believed that the rights to air global cricket in India would fetch the ICC $4 billion in auction revenue.

ICC is reported to have sold the media rights to Disney Star for over $2 billion for the 2017-2023 cycle.

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