Alister Dcunha, a 30-year-old Australian resident and a die-hard cricket fan, is all set to watch the third season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on the online video streaming site, YouTube. Besides watching key matches live this year, for free, the India-born Australian plans to keep himself tuned to cricket matches via his mobile phone too.
"I never miss a game unless I am asleep. In fact, last season, I was forced to catch IPL matches live on the TV channel, One HD, which was a tough call because of the time difference," he says. This year, Dcunha can catch all IPL matches via delayed telecast on YouTube, instead of just the match highlights that YouTube had last season. "Thanks to the web, I can stream the content on my main TV as well," he further adds.
Industry estimates indicate that YouTube gets over six million users from Australia alone. UK is not behind, too. Ajay Naik, an Indian residing in the UK, elaborates: "I use the internet extensively for daily soaps and news. So, the fact that IPL-III will be live on YouTube works to my advantage. For people like me, who think twice before paying for expensive cable subscriptions, Google just made lives easier." It's no wonder then that YouTube is the most popular video destination in the UK, with a market share of 65 per cent.
But cricket fans in the US are feeling left out. Kiran Bhanushali, a student at Northeastern University, Boston, was awaiting an announcement from IPL and Google on how the matches would be telecast. For now, fans in the US won't get to stream live matches on their computer screens.
"Last year, I watched IPL matches on www.willow.tv. The website streamed cricket matches live from around the world. This year though, I am not sure as the site has been bought out by Global Cricket Ventures, which has signed a deal with Google India to broadcast live on YouTube," says a dejected Bhanushali. He is now looking out for other vendors who would stream the games live. "Having a single place to watch any kind of clips related to the tournament is a great idea. Earlier, user-generated videos would be scattered and would usually be taken down due to copyright violations," Bhanushali points out.
A blueprint for future
According to third-party reports, an estimated seven million cricket followers visited YouTube during the second season of IPL. Now, with the IPL-Google tie-up, which gives cricket enthusiasts across the globe a chance to catch IPL-III live for free on YouTube, the view-per-user model can only get better.
Google India Managing Director Shailesh Rao acknowledges, if IPL and Google get this right, it can serve as a blueprint for sport events in the future. Rao, along with BCCI's Lalit Modi (the brain behind the IPL series), might create new grounds for sport events for the 50-million-plus internet subscribers in India.
While live cricket streaming is not a new phenomenon in India, it will be interesting to see what an event like IPL does for advertisers and marketers when broadcast live on the internet. A few months ago, TV channel Ten Sports had launched live streaming on its website. It claimed it streamed content to over 70 million homes globally and even had advertisers such as Airtel, Maruti and Samsung running commercials on its web telecast.
Internet speed an issue
Internet surfers in India, however, look disinclined to switch broadcast media when it comes to watching their favourite sport.
"I think it is great news for Indians settled in the UK, US and other geographies. But it may not be a game-changer for the domestic crowd," rationalises 25-year-old Kushal Shah, co-founder of Resorcetek Systems, who has no intentions of moving to the web to watch cricket matches. According to him, with current broadband speeds averaging at around 768 kbps in India, it does not make sense to watch IPL matches on the web.
"It is cricket.I can't afford to have connectivity failures. Besides, I am already paying a fixed monthly charge for the cable subscription," he emphasises.
Good business sense
But the market is bullish on the success of web telecast of cricket matches. According to Vdopia, an online and mobile video monetisation company, three million internet viewers watched the five ODIs, three Test matches and two T20 matches of the recently concluded India-Sri Lanka series. There is money to be made, too.
Vdopia claims to have served over 40 million dynamic online video ads from brands like Aircel, IDBI Bank, Axe, Maruti, Volkswagen and SBI on Neo's website, www.cricketnirvana.com, which is a part of Nimbus Communications. During the match webcast, there were approximately 150,000 concurrent users watching the live stream.
"And this is certainly not a one-off event for cricket fans," Vdopia Chief Business Officer Saurabh Bhatia says. The World Championship of Cricket (India-South Africa series) that begins on February 6 is set to be webcast live on Cricketnirvana.com, the exclusive online destination for live matches for all Indian international cricket played domestically in 2010.
Experts agree. Brand consultant Santosh Sood says: "YouTube is one of the most popular sites and IPL has a big audience. It looks like a winner."
The ad rates, however, will be quite different from that of TV. For instance, a ten-second ad-spot on Ten Sports live streams was almost a tenth of the rate TV commands. For BCCI's Lalit Modi, that should not be a problem as his focus is to broad-base the IPL audience into countries that don't have access to TV rights.
The icing on the cake according to experts would, however, be the significant domestic crowd, which, desperate to catch the action while stuck at work, may take to YouTube's webcasts.