India cricket league broadcasting bids top $5.65bn on second day

BENGALURU — Bids for broadcasting rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) topped 440.75 billion rupees ($5.65 billion) on the second day of offers on Monday — about 34% higher than the floor price — despite big names such as Amazon, Apple and Alphabet staying on the sidelines.

The Indian cricket board had doubled the floor price for the auction to 329 billion rupees for rights covering 2023 through 2027. The 163.47 billion rupees paid by current rights holder Disney Star five years ago was about double the 82 billion rupees paid by Japan’s Sony between 2008 and 2017.

The bidding has been split into four parts: TV broadcast rights for India; digital rights for India; rights for select matches, including the tournament opener and some knockout games; and TV and digital broadcast rights outside India.

On Monday, the television broadcasting rights for the Indian subcontinent were sold for 235.75 billion rupees, while the digital rights fetched 205 billion rupees, sources told Nikkei Asia.

The bids were driven by Reliance Industries’ subsidiary Viacom18, Walt Disney Company’s Disney Star and Sony Pictures Networks India, while India’s pay-TV channel Zee bid for digital rights only.

London-based investment bank Elara Capital anticipates that cumulative bids for IPL broadcast rights could top 500 billion to 600 billion rupees for the 2023-2027 period. This translates into 1.35 billion rupees per match — topping the rates for the English Premier League, Germany’s soccer association Bundesliga, as well Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League in the U.S.

Even the low end of Elara’s forecast range is equivalent to $6.3 billion, valuing IPL higher than the Premier league at $5.3 billion and the NHL at $4.43 billion.

Broadcast rights for India’s most-watched sport are the easiest way to cement a foothold among Indian viewers.

IPL broadcast rights are crucial to the goals of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, who also owns the Mumbai Indians cricket team. A play in IPL could not only boost subscriptions for his telecom venture, Jio, but also mark a turnaround for Viacom18, which lags behind Disney Star and the combined entity of Zee and SPNI, who announced a merger in January.

Viacom18 — a 51:49 joint venture between Reliance Industries’ TV18 and Paramount Global — recently shored up its war chest with a 135 billion rupees infusion from Bodhi Tree Systems, an investment company backed by businessman James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, the former head of Disney Star.

For Disney Star, retaining the broadcast rights is all about protecting its lead in streaming. With 51 million users — largely comprised of IPL viewers — its Hotstar on-demand platform was estimated to be the largest in India, according to research company Media Partners Asia, far eclipsing Amazon Prime at 22 million viewers and Netflix at 6.1 million.

According to Elara Capital, endorsements, sponsorship and media spending on Indian sporting events topped 95.3 billion rupees in 2021, compared with 91.9 billion rupees in 2019. Cricket accounted for 88% of the spending last year, compared with 80% in 2020.

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