Media giants buy Indian Premier League cricket rights for $8.8 billion

The Indian cricket board has sold the broadcasting rights of the IPL tournament for a dazzling sum to global media giants.

The Indian cricket board has sold the broadcasting rights to the IPL tournament for the next five seasons to global media giants for a dazzling AU$8.8 billion.

“IPL is now the 2nd most highly regarded sports league in the world in terms of value per match!” tweeted Jay Shah, secretary of the Board of Trustees for Cricket in India (BCCI), announcing the results of a hotly contested three-day online auction.

The amount paid for the rights to one of the world’s most-watched sports competitions is less than the $3.6 billion that Star India paid in 2017 for the previous five seasons through 2022.

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Star, owned by American giant Disney, retained the domestic TV rights for the next five seasons of the annual two-month competition from 2023 to 2027 for $4.3 billion, according to the BCCI.

But the digital rights were auctioned off for even more – $4.34 billion – reflecting the expectation that more people in India and abroad will watch the matches on digital devices.

The buyer was Viacom18, a joint venture between Reliance — owned by Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani — and US group Paramount Global, as well as an investment group reportedly backed by James Murdoch.

“So digital turned out to be bigger than linear TV in #IPLMediaRights this season,” BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal wrote on Twitter.

“I would like to thank all participants for their interest in the best ‘Made in India’ sports building!”

The international broadcasting rights were also sold, divided between Viacom18 and the international branch of the Indian Times Group.

The groundbreaking IPL attracted some of the world’s top cricket stars with amazing salaries and helped make T20 – a shorter form of the sport – hugely popular, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers and sparking copycat events worldwide.

Last season it expanded with 10 franchises competing in 74 matches, culminating in a final at the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad in front of 105,000 fans – and millions more watching on television and smartphones.

Also in the auction for the rights was Japan’s Sony, which broadcast the IPL on television for the first 10 years after its inception in 2008.

Jeff Bezos’ Amazon, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on European and American football rights, had previously reportedly expressed interest in the IPL but withdrew.

The deal is a major win for Ambani, Asia’s richest man with a net worth of $13.9 billion according to Forbes, who is reportedly a close confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Reliance’s billion-dollar fortune was made in oil and petrochemical companies, but it has diversified into new areas in recent years, including telecom, retail and renewable energy.

Reliance shook up the Indian telecom sector with the launch of Jio in 2016 with ultra-cheap data and phone calls, forcing several competitors to throw in the towel after years of losses.

Major global players such as Google, Facebook and Intel have invested billions of dollars in Reliance’s digital unit, Jio Platforms, in recent years.

Ambani’s wife Nita Ambani owns the Mumbai Indians franchise in the IPL, the richest and most successful side in IPL history with five titles to their name.

“Mr Ambani is all set to redefine the contours of OTT (over-the-top streaming services),” Sandeep Goyal, director of advertising agency Rediffusion, told AFP.

“But it could redefine not only OTT, but also entertainment, cricket consumption, customer connectivity, e-commerce and a whole lot of other things, which are connected to this whole game of having such huge viewers under your control.”

– AFP

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