Home / Industry / Media /  Reliance Jio joins Amazon, media firms in weighing bid for IPL’s digital rights

New Delhi: Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd is among companies that have bought tender documents for digital rights to broadcast the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, indicating its interest in bidding for the rights that will be up for sale next year, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Star India Pvt. Ltd, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and the current IPL rights holder Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt. Ltd also purchased the tender documents, said the person, a senior Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

WPP Group’s media buying agency GroupM and Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd’s digital media arm Times Internet Ltd have picked up the documents, the person said. The documents for IPL, an annual Twenty20 cricket tournament run by the BCCI, are priced at $10,000.

Online marketplace Amazon India also purchased the documents for obtaining digital rights to broadcast the IPL cricket tournament, an indication of the company’s big bet that video content will help it attract new users and keep existing users glued to its platform, Mint reported on 24 September.

The digital rights for the IPL, India’s most popular sports event, will be auctioned after the completion of the 2017 season, IPL’s 10th edition.

“This bidding process probably for the first time will see a mature digital play. During the first bid (in 2008) the digital content piece in India was not half as mature," said Harish Krishnamachar, founding partner at consulting firm Sportoid Sports Solutions.

“For these new-age companies, their focus will be on the digital rights of the IPL because they can’t bid for the TV broadcast rights. If they (Reliance Jio and Amazon) do get around to bidding, it is a validation of the fact that the digital content market has evolved in a big way," he added.

For the Indian subcontinent, the board will award the TV rights for 10 years and digital media rights for five years. The bids have to be submitted by 9.30am on 25 October.

Sony Pictures Networks India confirmed that it had bought the tender documents. “We have procured the IPL media rights tender without prejudice," the company said in an emailed statement.

Emailed queries to other entities that purchased the tender documents, including Reliance Jio, remained unanswered.

Rahul Johri, chief executive of BCCI, said on 18 September that the highest bidder may not necessarily get the rights. “There is no obligation on BCCI to accept the highest bid," he said, adding that a final decision will be taken by BCCI’s financial adviser Deloitte Consulting Llp after evaluating every bid.

The global television and digital media rights, excluding the Indian subcontinent, have been clubbed together and will be available for a period of five years.

Leading international broadcasters that have purchased the tender document so far include SuperSport, a South African group of channels owned by Naspers, a media group; Econet, a telecom company; OSN, a Dubai-based pay TV network; BT Plc., a telecommunications services company; Sky Sports, a UK-based sports TV network; and US-based sports broadcaster ESPN.

Followon, a Houston-based data analytics firm, has also indicated its interest by purchasing the document.

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.

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