If 3D and 4DX changed the experience of watching a movie in theatres, as viewers got a chance to experience motions such as air, vibrations, etc, virtual reality (VR) is expected to change the way viewers have so far watched the popular T20 tourney, the Indian Premier League (IPL). Star India — the official broadcaster of the Vivo IPL for the next five years — is relying on technology like VR to drive viewership, as well as engagement, on its video over-the-top (OTT) platform Hotstar. The broadcaster has also introduced six feeds — including those in Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali — besides a high-definition channel (HD). With this, viewers on Hotstar will be able to watch the matches in their preferred language. Star India claims that via the six channels, along with Hotstar, the IPL will reach 700 million viewers this year. In 2017, 535 million viewers had watched the T20 tourney.
“Over its 10-year journey, the IPL has grown into the single biggest property by far on Indian television. Now we will use the confluence of technology, consumer insight and experience in cricket coverage to broaden the outreach and experience even further. Also, of the total number of people who follow cricket in India (600-700 million), only 30 million have had a chance to watch a match live in a stadium. Thus, with VR, we want to provide a experience of watching a live match sitting at home,” said Sanjay Gupta, MD, Star India.
Apart from installing experience zones across all stadiums where IPL matches will be held — where viewers would be able to wear the VR headset to experience 360 degree view of the game besides pre- and post-match programmes — for audiences watching the matches at home, there would be two ways to enjoy the game. First, viewers at home can watch the matches on Hotstar through VR headsets. The second option will be an inbuilt feature within the app which will allow a user to pause the match at any given time and swipe/tilt the phone to get a 360-degree view of the ground. As per a 2016 report on Indian augmented reality and virtual reality market by Research and Markets, India’s AR and VR market is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 55% during 2016-2021. However, the market is highly fragmented, with several global majors such as Microsoft, OculusVR, Samsung, Sony, etc operating across various price points.
Another report by US-based Zion Market Research points out that the global virtual reality (VR) market size was valued at approximately $2.02 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately $26.89 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 54.01% between 2017 and 2022. The report states that demand for VR headset is being fuelled by countries such as the US, Germany, France, the UK, China, Japan, India and Brazil.
Industry observers believe that even as VR as a technology is currently used by a few consumers who have purchased the VR headset, Star India’s move is futuristic, and the broadcaster would definitely benefit from it in the long run. “The situation is similar to a few years back when broadcasters launched HD channels. At the time, only a few TV households had HD TV sets. But now that has changed as today almost every second home has a smart TV. The use of VR brings in a novelty factor that allows Star to stand out from Sony Pictures, which earlier held the TV telecast rights. It also increases interaction with the games, thereby resulting in higher viewership,” said Indranil Das Blah, COO, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions.