Facebook joins Amazon, Twitter in weighing bid for IPL digital rights

The interest from Facebook, and Twitter, Amazon and Reliance Jio, in IPL digital rights highlights the changing media landscape in India

BCCI  will award the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) TV rights for 10 years starting from 2018 and digital media rights for five years. Photo: HT
BCCI will award the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) TV rights for 10 years starting from 2018 and digital media rights for five years. Photo: HT

New Delhi: Social media site Facebook Inc. on Monday purchased the tender documents for digital media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, two people familiar with the development said.

Facebook is the latest new media company to show interest in the popular Twenty20 cricket league, joining others such as Twitter, Amazon and Reliance Jio, highlighting the changing media landscape in the country.

Facebook “made the payment today (for the documents)”, said one of the two people, a senior official at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) who asked not to be named.

The documents are priced at $10,000.

Facebook said in an email that it wouldn’t comment on “rumours and speculation”.

BCCI will award the television rights for 10 years starting from 2018 and digital media rights for five years. The competitive bidding process will close on 25 October and its results will be announced the same day.

BCCI anticipates intense bidding both for the TV and the digital rights.

The Internet and mobile rights were last awarded to Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, a unit of Star India, for a period of three years to 2017. In 2009, Sony paid $1.63 billion for IPL’s television broadcasting rights.

Facebook is focused on helping its partners experiment with a variety of live content—from “behind the scenes” access to first-person athlete question and answers, to live games. “We’ve seen great results when we’ve streamed games live, and continue to be interested in testing the viability of this content on Facebook,” said a company spokesperson.

In August, Facebook streamed Wayne Rooney’s testimonial match between Manchester United and Everton via Facebook Live. Fans watching could chat with other fans, send greetings to Rooney and learn how to donate to his foundation.

This summer, the firm streamed nine US basketball exhibition games live, giving fans around the world the opportunity to watch the game’s brightest stars prepare for the Olympics.

“We will continue to work with our partners to find the best ways to connect their content to the world’s largest community of sports fans,” the company spokesperson said in an emailed response.

In June, Facebook live-streamed all matches of the Hero Caribbean Premier League, using the company’s popular product feature Facebook Live across 40 countries, including India.

Meanwhile, Twitter’s head of sports partnerships, Aneesh Madani, said IPL and Twitter have had a warm, deep partnership, driven by innovation resulting in IPL becoming the fastest growing global sports league on Twitter over the past three years.

“Sports and Twitter are made for each other. Nine out of 10 Twitter users in India are fans of cricket and sports is right up there as a conversation driver. It’s also among the fastest growing. There were 5.75 billion impressions of Tweets related to the ICC World T20 in 2016 and 10.6 million Tweets related to the IPL in 2016, a 56% increase over 2015. Fans love watching sports with Twitter and Tweeting about it,” he added.

Twitter has a partnership with the National Football League. Fans can simply go to tnf.twitter.com to watch Thursday Night Football LIVE for free this season and participate in real-time conversations around the game. “We’re constantly evaluating opportunities to transform the live sports experiences for fans in partnership with our most valuable global sports partners, and that was the reason for the purchase of IPL tender document,” Madani added.