Gujarat title
Bigger and stronger: Gujarat Titans players celebrate their maiden IPL title win in Ahmedabad. Image Credit: Courtesy: BCCI

Kolkata: It’s the BCCI’s strategy of splitting the auction into four packages, pitching the digital rights almost at par with TV rights, which helped the Indian cricket board see an exponential rise in the figures from the IPL media rights for the 2023-27 cycle. The curtains finally came down on a three-day, marathon e-auction - first of it’s kind to ensure ‘transparency’ between all parties on Tuesday.

The Mukesh Ambani-owned Viacom18 stole a march over their rivals as they swept two of the packages: digital rights (package B) and non-exclusive rights of selected matches for the sub-continent (package C) while they have also claimed a bigger chunk of global TV rights (package D), comprising of prime zones UK, Australia, US, South Africa and MENA region. Disney Star held on to the TV rights for the Indian sub-continent (package A) while Times Internet has emerged as the third player to acquire rights for the remaining regions of global TV rights.

‘‘Since its inception, the IPL has been synonymous with growth & today is a red-letter day for India Cricket, with Brand IPL touching a new high with e-auction resulting in INR 48,390 cr (Rs 483, 900 million; $ 6.2 billion) value. IPL is now the 2nd most valued sporting league in the world in terms of per match value!,’’ tweeted Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary from his official handle.

The rise in brand value of IPL has left some of the insiders in awe, though they feel that the projection of more matches at stake over the next five years could be a moving factor behind this. A total of 410 matches are on the cards in the five-year cycle with 74 in first two seasons, 84 over the next two and 94 in the final year. According to figures released by the BCCI secretary, the total amount pledged by Viacom18 is Rs 237,580m ($3.05 billion) while Star India's bid has fetched Rs 235,750m ($ 3.05 bn approx).

Just ponder this, the valuation of each IPL game will stand at Rs 1180.2 million, which stands at a staggering $ 15.1 m, which is only below the NFL but marginally higher than English Premier League. 

‘‘So digital turned out to be bigger than linear TV this season in #IPLMediaRights. I would like to thank all the participants for their interest in the best “Made in India” sports property. In my view the transparency of the whole process is truly Winner no.1.Big thanks to fans !,’’ Arun Thakur, treasurer of BCCI, tweeted earlier in the day.

Ironically, the e-auction for the IPL media rights panned out more like a Test match in complete contrast of the T20 format. In contrast to the past where bids for the entire season or the entire five-year cycle were the norm, the auction was thrown open on per match basis. The minimum bid increment (MBI) value was Rs five million and to maintain transparency, none of the stakeholders, including the BCCI, got to know about the bids until the highest ones were flashed on the monitor.

Four packages on offer

There were four packages on offer in a departure from the past – A, B, C and D. Package A is the TV rights for the Indian sub-continent; Package B is the digital rights for the Indian subcontinent; Package C is a special bouquet of matches with non-exclusive digital rights for the Indian subcontinent while Package D is the global rights for TV and digital.

Package C includes tournament openers and play-offs. The number of matches is 18 at the moment with a total of 74 games to be played in the tournament. The total number of matches are set to increase in future, which entails that the number of games in Package C will rise in a ratio of two for every 10 games. For example, if the total number of matches rise to 84, Package C will offer a bouquet of 10 games. This has been introduced to attract companies who are willing to get a smaller share of the cricket pie, in the bargain generating the overall revenue of BCCI.

Digital rights the key

Digital viewership’s fast-growing popularity is a reason why the BCCI had done away with composite bids and gone for separate bidding this term. Currently 30 per cent of Hotstar’s global revenue comes from India, with the IPL being the determining factor. Reliance’s Jio, meanwhile, has grown to be the country’s largest telecommunications company.

With digital viewing expected to be the name of the game in the near future, an intense battle between Disney-Star, Viacom18/Reliance, Sony and Zee were always on the cards. Five years ago, Facebook was the highest bidder in the digital rights segment with a bid of Rs 39,000 million, which amounted to around Rs Rs 130 m per game. Star India won the media rights with a composite bid of $ 2.4 billion for the previous cycle - and the figure speaks for itself.

This time, with Rs 330 million being the base price per game for the digital rights in the sub-continent only, the BCCI was confident of an unprecedented windfall from this segment. A survey of the OTT platforms' performance over 2021 (post-pandemic consumption) showed that digital subscriptions grew by 49 per cent during this period - with the mobile phone emerging as the biggest alternative viewing medium in place of TV sets. The viewership among those aged between 15 and 34; an age-group that caters to the IPL’s diehard fan base, emerged the highest - showing that the BCCI had done their homework.

High transparency ?

The bidding for the 2017 -22 was a closed one. This time, the names of the bidders were not revealed to ensure that rivals didn’t get any inkling and inflate the whole process. The BCCI hired the services of Mjunction to provide the platform for the e-auction.