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IPL Media Rights Auction: IPL media rights: Bidders may not hit it out of the park

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As the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) looks for a windfall at the Indian Premier league (IPL) media rights auction, sports marketing experts expect bids to be less exuberant than previously expected, especially with Amazon, Google, and Dream11 choosing to stay away.

As ET reported on June 11, four top broadcasters are in the fray for TV and digital rights—rights holder DisneyStar, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), Reliance-owned Viacom18 and

(ZEE). They will start placing bids for the five-year rights of the biggest sporting property in India today, starting 11 am.

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While some reports said the winning bids could hit the Rs 60,000-65,000 crore mark, experts polled by ET put them closer to Rs 48,000-50,000 crore for the 2023-27 rights cycle. At the reserve price, the BCCI will get about Rs 36,000 crore, more than double the DisneyStar’s Rs 16,347.5 crore winning bid last time around.

“It’s going as predictable,” said a senior sports marketing executive. “Effectively, there are three bidders—DisneyStar, Viacom18 and Sony-ZEE. Even if the (Sony-ZEE) merger hasn’t happened yet, they will probably have an understanding that one company will go after TV and other after digital rights. To have both on one’s books will be too much.”

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Viacom18 will likely be the most aggressive bidder as the IPL would give it scale with a sports broadcasting play, adding heft to its entertainment business, said an expert.

“Moreover, Uday Shankar will have to re-establish his position in the media and entertainment space and prove that the last IPL win at Star was not a flash in the pan,” the person said. “Winning these rights will be most crucial for him and the company.”

Shankar and James Murdoch recently invested in

Industries-owned Viacom18 through Bodhi Tree Systems. The latter is a platform promoted by Shankar and Murdoch’s Lupa Systems. DisneyStar will also push hard to retain the rights but will not break the bank.

“For them, it’s not a do-or-die situation,” said an expert. “DisneyStar has the ICC (International Cricket Council) rights and India cricket for another year. With its long-standing relationship with the ICC and other international boards, it will not have to go too aggressive. So, for them, IPL rights are good to have, but not a must-have.”

Still, SPN could pull off a surprise, said an analyst, who has advised one of the bidders. “Sony is like the joker in the pack,” the person said. “They are more flexible in terms of their financial decisions than Disney, and they know what IPL can do to help grow the network.”

This is the first time that the BCCI has clarified the total number of matches. The reserve price is based on 74 matches per season, according to the tender document, which also mentions that the board reserves the right to increase or decrease total matches in a season. It informed all potential bidders that it intends to hold 410 matches in the next five years, instead of 370 (or 74 per season).

The first season, 2023, will have 74 matches. IPL 2024 and 2025 will host 84 matches each. Teams will play a total of 94 games each in 2026 and 2027.

“On the basis of 410 matches, the bids are unlikely to cross Rs 50,000-52,000 crore mark,” said a senior executive from a broadcast network. “We all know how much TV can earn, so the reserve price of Rs 49 crore per match for TV we can start with. But there has to be a limit. The reserve price for digital at Rs 33 crore per match is vastly inflated… There is no money to be made post Rs 40,000 crore.”

Beyond this it’s the value each of the bidders ascribe to their strategic intent–be it market share or customer acquisition. “But it can’t be at a transactional or P&L level,” he said.