Star, Viacom18 buy IPL media rights for $6.2 billion

Star retained the domestic TV rights while Viacom18 — a joint venture between Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani's Reliance and US group Paramount Global — picked up the streaming rights

By Reuters/AFP

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Published: Tue 14 Jun 2022, 5:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Jun 2022, 12:47 AM

US media behemoth Walt Disney and Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries were the major winners in a high-stakes bid to broadcast the IPL, the world’s richest cricket league, for the next five years in deals fetching the organisers an eye-popping $6.2 billion.

Disney-owned Star India retained the television broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League for $3.02 billion, Jay Shah, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, said on Tuesday, after a three-day online auction saw the league’s broadcast value triple from the last one in 2017.

“IPL is now the 2nd most valued sporting league in the world in terms of per match value!” tweeted Jay Shah.

At $3.02 billion, Disney will pay more than a billion dollars more than its previous bid in 2017, which also included online streaming rights.

Viacom 18, 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, won digital streaming rights from 2023 to 2027, for $3.05 billion. The deal is a major win for Ambani, Asia’s richest man with a net worth according to Forbes of $97.6 billion.

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, managing director at advertising agency Rediffusion, said.

“But it could well be redefining not just OTT, but entertainment, cricket consumption, customer connectivity, e-commerce and a lot of other stuff, which is interconnected to this whole game of having such massive viewerships in your control.”

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

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

Disney’s Hotstar Plus platform, which has so far streamed the IPL, is the market leader in India’s crowded online streaming market, with more than 50 million paid subscribers, which analysts attribute mostly to its strong cricket content.

“We made disciplined bids with a focus on long-term value. We chose not to proceed with the digital rights given the price required to secure that package,” Rebecca Campbell, Chairman, International Content and Operations at Walt Disney, said in a statement on Tuesday.

But analysts say the lack of cricket in its arsenal could hurt Disney’s position as the market leader and arm Reliance with a potent weapon to capture the Indian streaming market in the next five years.

“The fact that digital rights value is higher than television showcases the scale and future potential of streaming in India,” Mihir Shah, Vice President at consultants Media Partners Asia, said.

Others in the race included Sony Corp’s India unit and local broadcaster Zee Entertainment, both of whom are in the middle of a proposed merger.

“We had to factor in the market’s anticipated expansion and potential economic and other concerns over the next five years. Fiscal prudence, in my opinion, is critical for strategic management,” N P Singh, Managing Director and CEO Sony Pictures Networks India, said in a statement.

Bidding for the media rights began on Sunday.

Also sold were the international broadcast rights, split between Viacom18 and the international arm of India’s Times Group.

Jeff Bezos’s Amazon, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on rights for European soccer and American football, had earlier reportedly shown interest in the IPL but pulled out. —

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