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NEW DELHI : Television and digital rights to beam Indian Premier League (IPL) matches across the Indian subcontinent were sold for a whopping 44,075 crore on the second day of the ongoing e-auction, three people familiar with the bidding process said, as broadcast giants bet on IPL’s pan-India popularity and explosive internet adoption.

At the last auction in 2017, Star India won IPL’s global media rights for five years, including TV and digital, for 16,347.50 crore.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which runs the league, will formally name the winners on Tuesday, said one of the three people cited above, a person close to cricket’s apex body. The total bid amount assumes a total of 410 matches to be played over five IPL seasons, as indicated by the apex cricketing body.

The second person cited above said Reliance Industries-owned Viacom18 walked away with digital streaming rights at a steep 50 crore per match, against the floor price of 33 crore set by BCCI. In April, Bodhi Tree Systems, an investment platform led by Uday Shankar and James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems, had agreed to invest 13,500 crore in Viacom18, giving it nearly 40% of the company.

Although no confirmation was forthcoming, multiple media executives indicated that Disney-Star India had the edge over rivals in the auction for TV rights at the close of bidding. A Disney-Star spokesperson declined to comment.

The auction, which started on Sunday, concluded for Packages A and B early on Monday, with only a marginal increase in TV rights prices from the previous day. The TV rights bids closed at 57.50 crore per match, 17.3% above the 49 crore floor price.

Bidding for Package C began Monday evening with a base price of 16 crore per match and is expected to conclude on Tuesday. This package offers 18 games, including the opening match, four playoffs, and night games of doubleheaders. When the auction closed for the day, the bids were up at 18 crore. Package D, which will also be on offer on Tuesday, involves rights for the rest of the world, both for TV and digital, at 3 crore per match.

A sports marketing executive said on condition of anonymity that bidding has been as per expectations and will generate good revenue for BCCI. At the time, the per-match price for TV rights was approximately 38 crore and for digital was 13 crore, the executive said.

It’s not difficult to see why bidding for IPL’s digital media rights has turned aggressive. According to a Ficci-EY report released earlier this year, online video subscription revenues grew 27% in 2021 to 5,400 crore. Paid video subscriptions crossed 50 million for the first time in 2020 and rose further to 80 million in 2021, it said. Digital advertising grew 29% to reach 36,300 crore in 2021.

The same report said internet penetration increased 5% to reach 834 million people in 2021, of which 795 million had broadband access as of September 2021. Additionally, smartphone users reached 503 million, and connected TVs crossed the 10 million mark.

Yet, TV remains attractive for IPL, as it is a growing medium. A report published by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India in 2020 said TV homes rose 6.9% to 210 million, up from 197 million in 2018. TV viewing individuals also grew by 6.7%, effectively an increase of 56 million. TV households increased in urban and rural markets by 4% and 9%, respectively, it said.

Despite reports of big-city audiences switching from cable and DTH connections to streaming services, TV advertising volumes revived in 2021, according to a BARC report. Total TV advertising saw 22% ad volume growth over 2020 and 18% over 2019 between January and December 2021.

However, the IPL 15 edition this year saw a decline in viewership, and critics argue that it will be difficult to recover the investment in the property by the winners. “It’s too early to say if the rights holder will recover this money. I think the real value of IPL is being unlocked, and this recovery will not be based on ad rates alone. There are a lot of new revenue streams that will emerge, and success will depend on how best the winning network is able to monetize this," said Navin Khemka, CEO South Asia, MediaCom.

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