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Giants pad up, game on in battle for IPL media rights

The addition of two new teams will mean more matches which could significantly go a long way in increasing the value of the rights

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 10.10.21, 02:51 AM
Kolkata Knight Riders’ Rahul Tripathi takes a catch in the match against  Punjab Kings in Dubai on October 1.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ Rahul Tripathi takes a catch in the match against Punjab Kings in Dubai on October 1. Picture courtesy IPL

As the Indian Premier League (IPL) enters its business end, there is another battle brewing on the sidelines — the sale of the tournament’s media rights for the 2023-2027 cycle, the tender for which will be released once the two new franchises are announced on October 25.

Star India had acquired the IPL’s global broadcasting and digital rights in 2017 for a consolidated amount of Rs 16,350 crore for a period of five years, starting from the 11th edition in 2018. Sony Pictures Network (SPN) had bagged the broadcasting rights with Rs 8,200 crore deal for the first 10 years.


The big question now is who would win the IPL rights for the next cycle, arguably among the most lucrative sports properties in the world.

The addition of two new teams will mean more matches which could significantly go a long way in increasing the value of the rights. The number of matches has been capped at 60 for the last few years and it is estimated to go up to 74 this time. That means a straightaway 25 per cent jump from last year and the value could go up to around Rs 21,000 crore.

Given the Covid-19 scenario for the past couple of seasons, the notion that Star made an astronomical profit isn’t true, according to market estimates. “For the first two years, they were trying to break even. Later on, they made some profit but astronomical bit is nonsense,” said a market insider.

Star is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company India, which is believed to be much more conservative when compared to News Corp owned by the Murdochs. Star also owns the broadcast rights for ICC tournaments along with the BCCI’s domestic and international matches.

Much of the focus is on Sony, the other big player in the market, though its proposed merger with Zee has run into litigation. But Sony is expected to bid and do so aggressively since its cupboard is bare.

There’s also a third factor which is doing the rounds… Will Reliance be bidding through Viacom or on its own? Will they bid only for digital or both digital and TV? Viacom has already bought the rights for Spanish, French and Italian leagues

besides the football World Cup. So there are signs they might be thinking of expanding into the sports broadcasting universe.

“My theory is Reliance is a very smart and prudent company. So I don’t see them behaving recklessly. If they do bid, that will be a rational one. All bids will be rational and calculative. Everybody would want to win it but none would want to beat themselves and go overboard,” Harish Thawani, owner Neo Sports, told The Telegraph.

“The theory that if Jio wins, it will be available only on Jio devices and their subscriber base will go up is not true. There is no way you can show IPL only on mobile phones. It will destroy the brand and sponsorship value of IPL. I am sure the tenders will have the same conditions as it had the previous time.

“It has to be on a channel that has an minimum 80 per cent reach. So going by rough estimates, I would say Rs 20,000 to 23,000 crore will be the outer limit for the winning bid.”

If market insiders are to be believed, the theory in some circles that the BCCI pipped the International Cricket Council (ICC) to the media rights race also doesn’t hold much ground. It was known that the ICC was planning to invite bids for the 2024-31 cycle in November-December.

“Obviously there is power-play but no enmity... The IPL rights coming ahead of ICC is suspicious in the least because the ICC rights start after 2023 while the IPL is from 2023,” an official said.

It is learnt that the ICC is hell bent on starting the process in the first quarter of 2022 and will go for four-year deals and not eight years. That’s a smart move since technology is changing fast and four-year deals will be better and sensible to see how things evolve.

Will Facebook and Amazon join the IPL bid race as is being floated?

“Facebook has taken a global decision that they are no longer going to bid for sports events. Plus Facebook has an investment in Jio and in case Reliance is thinking of bidding, they will not go against their own company,” reasoned Thawani.

As for Amazon, only being digital giants won’t win them the bid.


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