Ajit Varghese unveils strategies behind Disney Star's success in ICC World Cup 2023 at India Brand Summit

Ajit Varghese unveils strategies behind Disney Star's success in ICC World Cup 2023 at India Brand Summit

Varghese lauded world cup success: 500M TV viewers, 295M streaming reach – one of ICC's best.

Ajit Varghese

Mumbai: The India Brand Summit, held on November 28, 2023, at The Lalit Mumbai, brought together leaders, marketers, entrepreneurs, and experts to discuss current trends in the dynamic brands and marketing arena. During a fireside chat with Ajit Varghese, Head of Network Ad Sales at Disney Star, Anil NM Wanvari praised Disney Star’s record-breaking viewership during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

Varghese highlighted the success of the World Cup, attracting over 500 million TV viewers and a streaming reach of 295 million, making it one of the most successful ICC Cricket World Cups to date. He also emphasized their focus on seamless viewer experience, enhanced engagement, and facilitating ROI discussions. The streaming platform introduced a bunch of innovations including MaxView, a technological innovation that allows cricket fans to watch the game in vertical mode (9x14 portrait view) for the very first time in the history of cricket streaming. MaxView was launched in collaboration with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and had close to 30% people sample it during the tournament.

Varghese also spoke about the self-serve platform launched for live cricket for the very first time. And how the platform gave advertisers the opportunity to advertise on cricket by just booking on the Disney+ Hotstar platform directly. The streaming service had hundreds of agencies logging in and almost 150+ new advertisers who advertised on cricket for the first time.

Disney+ Hotstar broke the record for peak concurrency with 59 million viewers for the final match. Ajit spoke about how the platform enabled its tech to handle this feat seamlessly. “We actually enabled our tech to handle almost 50-55 million concurrent users. There are two things that you need to look at. One is, when you get to that concurrency, can you serve ads to all of them? Second, what if the concurrency goes up further? So, the enablement of tech is on both fronts. One is the ability to handle more concurrency. Second is having that ad insertion in a seamless way so that the user experience does not have lags, breakage and all of that.”

He further added, “From a targeting point of view, there were around 12 targeting options. Now we took it up to 55 with the World Cup. Ad insertion capability moved up almost by 5X. So there are a lot of things that you observe when you watch a match seamlessly because finally for a consumer it's his mobile and it's his experience. When you look at close to 300 million people watching that tournament and when I look at 59 million concurrency, both should not have any leakage in experience and that's why I think the sport is a history and the overall experience has been historic.”

Wanvari then questioned Varghese about the upcoming Pro Kabaddi League to which he said “When we started PKL in 2014, in the year two or three itself, it became the second largest sport in India. And we recently announced PKL being available for free on mobile on Disney+ Hotstar with the aim to make Kabaddi accessible to all of India and foster a stronger sense of engagement amongst the fans.”

He also highlighted the overall growth the league has witnessed, the boost in PKL player payments, and the significant advertiser value return expected from PKL, he said, “The growth in player payments is 10x. And if you look at the kind of advertiser value return, I would say this would be the single event which gives you more than 15-16x kind of return. PKL will be bigger than any other reality show.”

When asked about the division between TV and OTT audiences for the World Cup, Varghese

said “It is very interesting with the World Cup being offered for free on mobile. What we saw is that TV viewership was not affected at all. So, if you look at this World Cup or the last World Cup, TV viewership has held strong with TV’s peak concurrency hitting 13 crores. What’s beautiful with that logic is, digital streaming while has grown leaps and bounds, it hasn’t impacted TV viewership.”

Varghese shared lessons for brands and advertisers, highlighting the effectiveness of sports in advertising. He emphasized the need for transparency in metrics and the importance of sports marketing for profitability and campaign success. Regarding the confusion between views and concurrent viewers, Varghese stressed the importance of transparency and factual data to instill confidence in advertisers.

He also discussed the growth of Free Ad-supported Streaming TV (FAST) in India, primarily operating on Ad-supported Video on Demand (AVOD).

Addressing the rise in consumption patterns on social media, Varghese debunked the notion that people only spend time on social platforms, emphasizing on the variety of content available today including User Generated Content and Professionally Generated Content. He discussed the evolving models for content creation as well.

Varghese concluded by discussing India's advertising market, anticipating growth as the country evolves into a per capita market. He highlighted the ample headroom for advertising spends to grow in India's expanding economy and population.