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IPL media rights auction: Digital rights valued higher than TV for the first time

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After three days of intense bidding, the auction for Indian Premier League media rights ended on Tuesday, with digital rights being valued more than television rights for the first time in the cricket league’s 15-year history. Mukesh Ambani-backed Viacom18 emerged as the exclusive owner of all digital rights for ₹23,773 crore, including the rights for 18 games, which the Board of Cricket Control of India had sold separately on a non-exclusive basis, hoping to encourage smaller players to bid. In effect, Viacom18 has preserved the value of its IPL asset, by blocking any other broadcaster from the rights to stream IPL digitally.

This could end Disney Star’s unquestioned reign in the broadcasting space, and it could be an opportunity for Reliance to break into the Tier 1 OTT market.

Disney Star has, however, retained the television rights for ₹23,575 crore. Rebecca Campbell, Chairman, International Content and Operations, The Walt Disney Company, said: “We made disciplined bids with a focus on long-term value. We chose not to proceed with the digital rights given the price required to secure that package. IPL is an important component of our portfolio of television channels in India, providing an incredible opportunity for us to showcase.”

Overall, the media rights for the sports property were sold for ₹48,040 crore, three times the winning bid of Disney Star, five years ago. 

Abneesh Roy of Edelweiss said: “The most likely players have won the rights in our view. Disney Star was the existing holder of rights therefore it was critical for them to win again. Having said that, it will be tough times for Hotstar. Hotstar will need to have a higher focus on non-sports content since it was getting a  significant amount of revenue and subscribers from IPL.”

While the massive selling price for IPL has grabbed many eyeballs, analysts believe that broadcasters will have a tough time breaking even in the premier league in the initial years of ownership. “In our view, it will be very difficult for winners to make profits in the early years. Especially as the government bans surrogate ads and ads from betting companies,” Roy explained.

Many worry that the inflated price of the sports property will have adverse effects. Serial entrepreneur, Ronnie Screwvala, explained: “This is great for the BCCI and great for all team owners, and I wish we could say that it was great for cricket- but we know anything so puffy and inflated puts a lot of stress on the sport itself.”

“Should we send messages of congratulations or messages for condolences to the winners?.”

Many expected that with the imminent Zee-Sony merger, Sony could potentially emerge as owner of IPL media rights. However, Sony missed out on all four packages offered by the BCCI. NP Singh, MD & CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India, said: “We made a reasonable bid, considering all the expected returns. We had to factor in the market’s anticipated expansion and potential economic and other concerns over the next five years. Fiscal prudence, in my opinion, is critical for strategic management.”

Published on

June 14, 2022



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