The bidding war for media rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) is ongoing, with Disney, Sony and India’s Reliance in contention for what could fetch the Indian cricket board up to $6bn.
The bidding began at 05:30 GMT on Sunday for the broadcast rights, digital rights, a bespoke package that includes rights for high-value matches as well as rights to broadcast the world’s richest T20 league in foreign territories.
“We are very happy that things are going the way they were planned,” Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal told Reuters.
“The participants are very enthusiastic. The bidding is still on and we are hoping for a good number tomorrow,” he said, adding: “This is the first time we went for an e-bidding to ensure a fair and transparent process.”
The IPL, counting top Indian industrialists and Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan among its franchise owners, is often seen as a surefire ticket to high TV ratings and growth in India’s booming online streaming space.
But while the digital and television rights for 2023 to 2027 are expected to more than double the 163.48 billion rupees ($2.09bn) that Star India, now owned by Walt Disney Co, paid in 2017, observers say caution may be setting in.
“There is also a global shift toward saner valuations, where investor expectations have shifted from ‘growth-at-any-cost’ to ‘growth-with-profitability’,” said Mihir Shah, vice president of consultants Media Partners Asia.
Gujarat Titans, owned by European buyout firm CVC, won the 15th edition of the league, beating Rajasthan Royals in the May 29 final in front of more than 100,000 fans in Ahmedabad.
The glitzy T20 league attracts the world’s best cricketers for two months of fast-paced matches played in packed stadiums with cheerleaders and live music. Indian viewers, coming out of two years of pandemic-led curbs, are steadily pivoting towards consuming entertainment online and away from TV – the staple source for middle-class Indian families until a few years ago. Acquiring IPL’s rights is a sure-fire way for any media firm to attract millions of eyeballs in the cricket-crazy nation of nearly 1.4 billion.
Amazon pulls out
Amazon.com Inc pulled out of the bidding process on Friday, saying it did not think it was a viable growth option for the company in India. While Amazon has already invested more than $6bn in the country, more spending merely for the online streaming rights to the league did not make business sense, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.
Amazon, which identified IPL among a half-dozen global sports franchises it is interested in, had initially been determined to score a victory, Bloomberg News reported. The retail titan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on European football rights and has forged a deal to broadcast Thursday Night Football in the US at $1bn a season until 2033.
Reliance Industries Ltd is bidding through its broadcasting joint venture, Viacom 18. Sony Corp’s India unit and local broadcaster Zee Entertainment are in merger talks but are bidding separately.
Last time, Star India won a consolidated bid that gave it broadcasting rights on both television and digital platforms.
“At renewal value of $5 to $6bn or more, the rights would require the winner to attain significant scale in the $20bn competitive streaming and TV industry,” Shah said.