As the FIFA World Cup kicks off on Sunday, Reliance-backed JioCinema has become the top ranked free app on Google Play. The Jio-Viacom alliance is pulling all stops to air its first major marquee sports property and break the Disney Hotstar and Sony monopoly on the sports genre.

How the app performs during FIFA will dictate Reliance’s broadcast strategy for the Indian Premier League 2023, for which it won the digital airing rights. The World Cup will be aired on the newly launched Sports 18 on the linear side, as well as JioCinema, an OTT app under Reliance Jio Infocomm, that provides on demand entertainment content to Jio mobile subscribers. However, in an exception to the rule, non Jio mobile subscribers will also be able to watch the football world cup on JioCinema for free. 

Sporting strategy

Even before a ball has been kicked at FIFA, Jio Cinema has scored well. As of Friday, according to 42 matters, a global mobile app analytics firm, JioCinema topped rankings in downloads of free mobile apps on Google Play. While the streaming app is normally a perk reserved for the subscribers on Jio’s mobile plans, Reliance has invited users subscribing to competitive telecom plans to watch the World Cup on the app.

Viacom18 is going to be making a serious bet in streaming of sports content next year, especially after acquiring the digital rights to IPL 2023-27. Sources at Viacom18 told businessline that the company is still zeroing down on the perfect channel to digitally air sports in the coming years, and are exploring all options, JioCinema, Voot, or a separate OTT for sports in the future. Airing FIFA on JioCinema is the first of many tests that the broadcasting giant will undertake in the leadup to the IPL. 

But advertisers are likely to be initially wary, according to Ajimon Francis, Managing Director for Brand Finance. “Viacom18 does not have the same momentum in the sports broadcasting space, as possessed by its competitors- Sony and Disney. Advertisers will likely await the initial viewership numbers before they commit to major advertisement contracts with Viacom18 for the world cup,” Francis said. 

For FIFA Viacom18’s brand partnerships include; Mahindra (Presenting Sponsor), AMFI, ET Money (Associate Sponsor), Amazon Pay, CakeZone, Apollo, Black & White, AM/NS India, and Visa, Amul, Signature and TVS Eurogrip.