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The Indian Premier League (IPL) is currently valued at $3.5 billion. Photo: HT
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is currently valued at $3.5 billion. Photo: HT

IPL rights auction today, Facebook, Reliance Jio, others in fray

Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Yahoo, as well as Reliance Jio, Sony, Discovery and Star India will participate in the auction process for IPL's TV and digital rights

New Delhi: As the curtains go up on Indian Premier League (IPL) television and digital rights auction in Mumbai on Monday, Internet giants and leading broadcasters will be among 24 aspirants seeking to outbid rivals for a piece of cricketing action.

Among the leading bidders are social media and Internet giants Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Yahoo!, new-age telecom operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, and a bunch of broadcasters including Sony Pictures Network, Discovery Communications, as well as Star India Pvt. Ltd.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is awarding TV and internet and mobile rights of IPL for a five-year period.

On Saturday, BCCI chief executive officer Rahul Johri told PTI that he expects revenue from the auction to be “historic".

The bid sizes and winners will offer new glimpses about the emerging media landscape in India and changing viewership habits.

“We have come a long way from 20 years ago, when ESPN and Star Sports had formed a joint venture to bid for sports rights and keep the pricing of media rights under control. IPL is obviously the most valuable sporting property in the country. So, be it an ad-supported model or subscription-led or a data-guzzler, you need consumers either way, and IPL is the holy grail of delivering large consumer audiences," said Sameer Nair, a media veteran who recently joined Aditya Birla Group’s production firm Applause Entertainment as chief executive.

This assortment of bidders are all after one thing—content. “Whether it is traditional broadcasters or new streaming platforms, everyone is going after content—that’s the mantra. If you look at non-fiction content across sports and entertainment, nothing is bigger than IPL. From a digital point of view, 4G has made connectivity a reality. In the coming future, even the price of TV versus digital media rights will close the gap. While sports is appointment viewing, live sports is hugely being seen as consumption on-the-go," said Indranil Das Blah, founding partner, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, a sports marketing firm.

At present, the brand value of IPL is over $5.3 billion, according to a recent report by Duff & Phelps, a New York-based corporate finance advisory firm.

For the 10th edition of IPL, Sony Pictures Networks, the league’s broadcaster, made Rs1,300 crore in advertising revenue alone, as compared to Rs1,200 crore earned in the ninth edition, while Hotstar’s ad revenue from IPL 10 rose to Rs120 crore, more than double the previous year. IPL’s bankability was further enhanced by the recent Vivo title sponsorship deal for Rs2,200 crore for a five-year period, which is significantly higher than its earlier title sponsorship deals.

“I think the winning bid will be unheard of—it’ll break all records just like the IPL Vivo title sponsorship rights. IPL will definitely add to the brand value of the broadcaster that gets it, but one cannot guarantee if they’ll recover their costs subject to the size of the winning bid," he added.

In 2009, IPL’s TV rights were given to Sony Pictures Network (then Multi Screen Media) and the World Sports Group at Rs8,200 crore for a nine-year deal, while Star India’s digital streaming platform Hotstar won the internet and mobile rights for Rs302.2 crore for a three-year period from 2015 to 2017.

Both numbers will change drastically in Monday’s IPL media auctions in Mumbai. The new TV rights for IPL are likely to be sold for $1.8 billion, and the internet and mobile broadcasting rights for $210 million, as per the report cited above.

IPL 10 generated 1.25 billion impressions on television across the five Sony television channels (an increase of 22.5% over the previous year when 1.02 billion impressions were recorded).

IPL’s online viewership has grown from 41 million viewers in 2015 to 100 million in 2016, and is expected to have reached a 130-million mark in 2017 as per the Duff & Phelps report.

“The primary reason for any live sporting event going digital is that it adds to its reach and makes for increased engagement of content in terms of time spent. For India, this trend picked up 2-3 years back, coupled with the availability of cheaper smartphone devices and deeper penetration of both 3G and 4G services. Sports content is also at the forefront of driving viewership to the Internet in a big way," said Kedar Gavane, vice-president (India) of comScore, a digital research and marketing agency.

Several sports and media executives said on the condition of anonymity that they expect the front runners to be Star India Pvt. Ltd and Sony Pictures Networks, and Star India’s Hotstar will also bid aggressively for the digital rights.

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