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Indian Premier League Cricket: Regional TV and Digital Rights Sell for $5 Billion

Cricket IPL
AP

Packages of TV and digital rights for the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, one the world’s richest sporting events, have been sold for a combined $5 billion, according to several reports.

The successful bidders have not been named as the auction, which started on Sunday is ongoing and may run to a third day. According to numerous published reports, Disney secured linear TV rights while the streaming rights were scooped up by Viacom18, the joint venture of Paramount Global and India’s Reliance.

The TV rights went for $2.72 billion and the digital rights for $2.37 billion, for a five-year deal covering the 2023-2027 tournaments. In both cases the rights packages are limited to the Indian subcontinent.

There are two more rights packages on offer – for selected tournament games including the playoffs, only for the Indian subcontinent; and TV and digital rights for the rest of the world.

The IPL competition has become must-see television in the Indian subcontinent and Middle East, and the winning bid – for local rights alone – was roughly 140% more than the price paid in the previous 2017 licensing round for the 2018-2022 period. Then Fox’s Star India (now Walt Disney’s Disney+ Hotstar) emerged as the winner having offered $2.55 billion.

According to auction rules, the winners of the Indian subcontinent TV rights earns the opportunity to compete for the digital rights against the winner of that category, should it be a different company.

Hotstar used the Indian public’s cricket obsession as a massively successful client acquisition tool. But in the current era of aggressively competing local and international streaming platforms, the rights could also have served the same purpose for other OTT firms seeking a breakthrough in the huge Indian market.

Sony and Reliance Industries (owned by India’s richest businessman and bidding through the Viacom18 vehicle) were among the bidders. It seems likely that Amazon, Facebook and Netflix were also among those to have considered their options, having each looked at other less pricey sports rights over the last couple of years. Local sources reported that Amazon dropped out on Friday, after calculating that the asking price was too rich.

The competition uses a made-for-television format of cricket that is quick-fire and favors aggressive tactics from attack and defense.

As a measure of its success, the tournament has grown from ten to twenty participating teams (franchises). They are owned by India’s biggest industrial conglomerates, Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan, and European venture capital firms.

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