Battle of moolah for IPL television and digital rights

According to the market, the television and digital rights closed bids that will be opened here at a South Mumbai five-star hotel on Monday could be the biggest day for the BCCI in terms of the revenue it would be assured for the next five years.

Analysts are sticking their neck out to say that the global media and digital rights could fetch in excess of Rs. 15,000 crore.   -  PTI

The time has arrived for the tainted but profitable Indian Premier League (IPL) to figure out how much it is worth in terms of the moolah; not from the BCCI's (Board of Control for Cricket in India) point of view, but from that of organisations doing a no-holds-barred business in the world of television broadcasting and digital platforms.

According to the market, the television and digital rights closed bids that will be opened here at a South Mumbai five-star hotel on Monday could be the biggest day for the BCCI in terms of the revenue it would be assured for the next five years (2018 to 2022). Come to think of it, almost a quarter century ago, the BCCI was in the red at Rs. 93 lakh. Analysts today are sticking their necks out to say that the global media and digital rights could fetch in excess of Rs. 15,000 crore.

An expert in the broadcasting industry and following trends in the digital sphere said: “The television model of business is well known; it’s difficult to see a third serious bidder for television broadcasting. The tussle should be between Sony Pictures Network India and Star India. The digital rights bid — that’s where the real story would be. It would be interesting to see how it pans out; the television broadcasting bid will, of course, be more than digital.”

The ‘premier’ league

Ten years ago, World Sport Group (WSG), Sony and ESPN-Star (ESS) responded to the BCCI’s Invitation To Tender (ITT) for the IPL Global Media Rights. NDTV opted out at the eleventh hour. Moreover, Sony and WSG made a consortium bid while ESS was eliminated on technical grounds (for not submitting a letter of eligibility with the company signature). ESS, however, was told that should the SONY/WSG bid not meet the criteria, it would be back in the bid.

But SONY-WSG fulfilled all eligibility rules and won the ITT at USD 1.026 billion (around Rs. 5200 crore) with USD 108 million earmarked for the marketing and promotion of the IPL. Then, following litigation with Sony/WSG that lasted for three weeks, the BCCI renegotiated a nine-year agreement with MSN (Sony) for Rs. 8200 crore.

The IPL has become the premier Twenty20 league in the world with Indian and overseas cricketers waiting for the big opportunity to be picked by franchisees at the player auction.

Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League has turned out to be a big hit in the last two years. There are other Twenty20 leagues in the Caribbean and Bangladesh, and the Pakistan Super League takes place in the UAE. Cricket South Africa is set to start its T20 Global Destination League and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is all set to begin its own Twenty20 league in 2020.

‘Big interest’

Yet, the IPL is always on the lips of the cricketers; that’s where they believe all the big action and razzmatazz is. The tournament has been dented by spot-fixing and corruption charges, but as a top executive of a television company said: “People like to unwind after a long day’s work. The IPL guarantees it at 8pm for six weeks over 60 matches. People know they can see a Dhoni and Kohli in action; it’s live action, not a re-run of soaps. Moreover, money is ploughed back into cricket, and that’s probably the reason there is big interest from broadcasters and all other stake holders.”

There is every chance that consortium bids could be made, but the big corporate players would generally like to go alone. An individual who plans to watch the live streaming of the opening of the bids says: “The IPL is for six weeks and who would like to share 60 matches; the business model is on advertisement sales. The digital goes beyond IPL cricket matches for some who are in e-commerce. It would be interesting to see how Jio comes in.”

More then 20 companies associated with broadcasting and digital platforms have bought the ITT, but it seems only Sony Pictures and Star India are in a position to bid for the television media rights. It would be a real surprise should someone else make a bid.