On the eve of the electronic auction for the five-year Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights, the Indian Cricket Board is optimistic: currently at No. 4 behind the National Football League (NFL), the Premier League English (EPL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), in terms of “broadcast fee per game”, the board expects the IPL to move into second place.
Unfazed by e-commerce giant Amazon’s belated withdrawal from top-flight racing which still boasts former sportscasters Disney Star, Sony, Zee, as well as newcomer Viacom-Reliance, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah said that even if the rights were at base price, the valuation of cricket’s biggest tournament would have taken a giant leap.
“Right now, a National Football League game costs a broadcaster about $17 million, which is the highest of any sports league. Next is the English Premier League, at $11 million, and Major League Baseball’s figure is also about the same. In the last five year cycle, we got $9 million from an IPL game. This time, according to the current minimum base price we have set, BCCI will receive $12 million per IPL match. This is a giant leap for Indian cricket on the world stage. We will be right behind the NFL,” Shah told The Indian Express citing a BCCI study on global sports leagues.
For BCCI, this will be the second consecutive broadcast bonanza of their five-year cycles. In 2017, the overall IPL rights went to Star India for around $3 billion, an amount unheard of for a cricket deal at the time.
With IPL now a 10-team tournament and the duration of the league set to be further extended, the 2023-27 media rights deal is set to break new ground.
An early indicator of Brand IPL’s growth despite the pandemic lull was the sale of two new teams earlier this year: BCCI earned a total of $1.7 billion, with the Lucknow franchise costing 250% more than the starting price.
According to Shah, BCCI opted for an online auction for “better price discovery”. Through this process, bidders will follow the auction online, with each auction displayed simultaneously on their screens. It is only after the winner has been chosen that the name of the bidder will be revealed. “It also keeps the process transparent,” Shah said.
Media rights are this time divided into four categories: Package A: television from the Indian subcontinent; Package B: Digital space; Package C: Special bouquet of important matches; Package D: rights abroad.
The special package which includes the weekend matches, the qualifiers and the final is expected to undermine the exclusivity of the A and B packages. Shah said this was done so that IPL would have more broadcast partners.
“If we had done this the conventional way, we would only have a limited number of participants. We introduced package C because we wanted many players to participate in the bidding process. It helps cricket to grow, we need to expand the game and that will help. If more players are in the fray it will be good for the game,” he said. Citing the example of the NFL, he said: “They have seven broadcast partners, we’re only looking at three or four.”
With Reliance’s Voot, Disney’s Hotstar, as well as Zee’s and Sony’s OTT platforms already embroiled in an intense battle for eyeballs, this time around the amount of digital rights could even exceed the TV offering. .
Shah is aware of this. “By 2024, India will have 900 million internet users. This is the reason why digital rights are becoming very important for the growth of cricket,” he said.
Since the IPL is not a one-year affair, the total broadcast contract value of the league is much lower than other top-tier sports leagues. The NFL with $43 billion and the NBA with $23 billion are above the others.
“We are involved in the ICC FTP program (Future Tours Programme). The Indian cricket team is our primary responsibility. By playing away matches, other cricketing nations earn revenue. We have a responsibility to let the game grow worldwide,” Shah said.