Amazon Prime
Illustrative image Image Credit: Social media

India's cricket governing body is trying to lure global giants Inc. and Alphabet Inc. to bid in a media rights auction of its team's games amid waning interest from firms who had recently competed fiercely for the wildly successful Indian Premier League.

The proposed starting date of the auction process for the media rights of the so-called bilateral series, played by the Indian team against other countries, for the next five years got postponed by at least two weeks. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is reportedly reaching out to more firms to drum up interest in the property, according to people familiar with the matter.

The lukewarm response by media firms ahead of the auction highlights the struggle to make money amid weak advertising revenues, with the shorter-format IPL being the top cricket property garnering higher viewership over the years. BCCI invited bids for the media rights on Wednesday and gave firms time up to August 25 to buy the bid documents, the governing body said on its website.

The sale process is running two weeks behind a timeline suggested by its adviser, Ernst & Young, under which auctions would have been completed by August end, they said, asking not to be named as the information is not public. EY expects the sale of rights to 102 matches to raise at least $750 million, almost the same price for what it was sold five years back, the people said.

In contrast, the rights to IPL, auctioned last year, had surged almost threefold from the previous offering. The IPL remains one of the world's most popular sporting contests and is still garnering the most eyeballs among cricket events.

BCCI raised record amounts of money by selling media rights for the IPL through an auction as Viacom 18 Media Ltd., controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, and Walt Disney Co. outbid rivals, including Sony Group Corp. However, Ambani's JioCinema put the 2023 edition of IPL online for free and Disney struggled to make profits due to weak advertisement revenues.

Viacom 18 will aggressively bid for the digital media rights to the bilateral series, while Disney undergoing a round of cost reduction globally, might take a cautious stance, the people said.

Representatives for BCCI, Disney and EY declined to comment. Spokespersons Viacom 18, Amazon and Alphabet didn't respond to emails seeking comments.

Star India, a Disney unit since 2019, had bought rights for the bilateral series in the five years from 2018 for 61 billion rupees ($741 million) and has clocked losses of about 10 billion rupees from the asset, the people said. A decision on breaking up the media rights into digital and linear this time around and conducting an e-auction is yet to be taken, they said.