Star India CEO: 'Acquiring IPL rights for Rs. 16,347.50 crore is not outrageous'

Uday Shankar, chairman and CEO of Star India, talks about the price (Rs. 16, 347 crore) his company paid for acquiring IPL rights, digital media, popularity of Test cricket and more.

The IPL, according to Star India CEO Uday Shankar, is a high quality premium property. He feels that the Rs. 16, 347 crore his company paid to acquire the media rights for it isn't exorbitant.   -  PTI

Uday Shankar, chairman and CEO of Star India, in an interview to Sportstar, says the price his company bid, Rs. 16,347.50 crore for acquiring the Indian Premier League global and digital rights for five years is not outrageous. The league, after its completion of 10 years, he says, "is a high quality premium property."


It was a bold and admirable bid. Was Star missing the IPL action in the last ten years?

First and foremost the value we have paid for IPL, one should see it from a certain context; we have got the rights for all markets: television, digital and global. We just paid a few hundred crore more (than the combined highest bids for all platforms and territories). SONY paid Rs.8200 crore for the first ten years; this time they themselves were willing to pay Rs. 11,050 crore for five years.

The reason is very simple; ten years ago IPL was untested. India did not have a similar domestic league, with the minor exception of the Calcutta Football League. Cricket was popular then also, but only with the BCCI  (Board of Control for Cricket in India) internationals and ICC (International Cricket Council) international formats. People got IPL cheap then, because it was not tested. Now the IPL has been tested and so has been the digital for some years; it has worked well for Hotstar. So the price is not outrageous. The IPL is a high quality premium property.

The second thing is, we pay Rs. 43 crore each for a Test match, ODI and Twenty20. If we were willing to pay Rs. 43 crore six years ago, Rs. 54 crore now for an IPL match is not an exorbitant price.

You said there has been a dramatic change in Indian cricket and IPL in the last ten years and also hoped that power of cricket will drive other sports. But India still lacks the sports ethos, does it not?

I think that word — sports ethos — has changed a little bit. Talking about ethos in sports, we are talking about a cultural change. For example, (in) ProKabaddi, many matches are comparable to an IPL game. A badminton match, when Kidambi Srikanth or P. V. Sindhu are playing, has a great following; Saina Nehwal was a great player even five years ago, but she did not get the attention she is getting now. So it will take a long time to change, and change will happen only of a large number of people start playing sports.

"Given the state of Test cricket, sometime one doesn’t even find one thousand people watching it in the stadium. That should give an idea of what’s the level of interest for Test cricket."

There were encouraging numbers for digital rights. Facebook's Rs. 3900 crore bid — does it confirm that future is going to be digital for media as a whole?

No I see it slightly differently. I think it’s a confirmation that digital is the real media. If anyone thought it was just posting family photos and sending messages, he/she is wrong. It is a very serious form of destination for video consumption. Television will continue to remain robust though for a long time for a few reasons. One, the people who watch television are way bigger than people who watch videos; two, viewing something on the big screen is quite spectacular, HD is becoming more prevalent and also the audio-video quality and most importantly, television is more affordable and for Rs. 300 one gets every channel, lots of movies, news and sports. Digital has become cheaper, but it’s a personal medium, and television is a family medium.

Is India ready to pay for watching cricket on digital medium?

I think the Indians are prepared to pay; they are open to paying for cricket and in fact already paying for it. We have done a survey and so far, the problem has been that the payment mechanisms are not easy, if it’s only to pay for digital. But people are willing to pay for content. With the new government initiatives on the digital, a huge change is going to happen.

Star India agreed for Rs. 43 crore six years ago for the home international media rights. What is the BCCI likely to do for the 2018-2022 cycle? 

I don’t think the next BCCI invitation to tender will be for more than five years. There is huge excitement when Australia, England, South Africa and Pakistan come to India. It’s not the same with Zimbabwe, that’s only to be expected. But there is no doubt that Test cricket has only limited appeal and the biggest challenge would be to sell Test match cricket; there will be good value though for ODI and Twenty20

"Twenty20 is amazing, played in the night and it is very dynamic. I think Twenty20 will have to drive the game," says Uday Shankar.   -  K. R. Deepak


You are apprehensive about the value for Test cricket. Have you talked about this to people in the fraternity?

Given the state of Test cricket, sometime one doesn’t even find one thousand people watching it in the stadium. That should give an idea of what’s the level of interest for Test cricket. If you are not watching it in the stadium, you are not seeing it on television. If one wants to pay the same value that I pay for a Twenty20, it will be tough.

Is Twenty20 the real future of cricket from a broadcaster’s point of view?

I think what happened between Test and ODI cricket gives a good insight here. People said ODI will kill Test cricket; it did not, it only expanded the fan base for cricket. One has to be a serious connoisseur to understand five days of Test cricket. The real challenge is to wait for five days, during the day, for an outcome. Twenty20 is amazing, played in the night and it is very dynamic. I think Twenty20 will have to drive the game. The cricket authorities, not in India, but globally are living in some kind of a strange world where they believe that their commitment is to Test cricket. They should believe that their commitment is to cricket and to its fans. That’s the dilemma for them now.

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