Indian Cricket broadcast rights hit record price

India’s governing body for cricket said Tuesday which had sold broadcast television and digital rights for a record $6.2 billion, roughly three times the value of its previous contracts, strengthening the Indian Premier League’s place among the world’s most valuable sports properties.

The deal consists of two main parts, one of which is the television rights for the Indian subcontinent, which were purchased by Star India, the local Disney subsidiary, for $3.02 billion. The second is the digital rights, which Viacom18, a joint venture between Paramount and India’s Reliance Industries, bought for $3.05 billion. Both deals are for five years and start next year.

Since its inception 15 years ago, the Indian Premier League has turned the once-serious game into a commercial giant, attracting the best players in the world with million-dollar contracts.

The television and digital deals, valued at more than $1 billion per season, firmly establish India’s cricket competition in the top bracket of international sports leagues such as the National Football League ($10 billion a year), the English Premier League soccer (about $4 billion) and the National Basketball Association ($2.7 billion).

On a per game basis, the Indian Premier League, whose season lasts just two months, now ranks only behind the NFL.

In India, cricketers have become household names, winning multi-million dollar contracts. Viewership for the league has skyrocketed on streaming platforms, though viewership has fallen this year.

The bidding for broadcast rights attracted some of the world’s biggest companies, including Walt Disney Co., Sony Pictures Networks India and Reliance Industries, the conglomerate controlled by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.

The appetite for the IPL is similar to that of the NFL in the United States, where most of the interest and revenue comes from national or regional audiences. The NBA and English Premier League have expanded their businesses through broader appeal, with global TV rights sales now a cornerstone of their growth strategies.

The IPL, however, has attracted the interest of foreign investors, with wealthy sports owners and private equity companies attracted by its growing profile and breakneck TV deals. CVC Capital Partners, which once owned the Formula One racing series and is an investor in several sports, bought the new Ahmedabad franchise in 2021, beating out rivals that included the Glazer family, which owns Manchester United and Tampa Bay. Bay Buccaneers.

In part, the growing popularity of Indian cricket is due to shorter matches and star power.

The Indian Premier League, created in 2007, featured a bold innovation: matches would last just three hours, not a full day or more, as traditionally in Test matches between national teams.

At the time, it was a highly controversial move in a sport that cherished tradition. But he attracted legions of new Indian fans to cricket. Well-known figures like Mr. Ambani and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan began buying franchises.

Mr. Ambani owns the most valuable team in the league, the Mumbai Indians, who have won five titles and are valued at $1.3 billion. Mr. Khan, film actress Juhi Chawla and industrialist Jay Mehta own Kolkata Knight Riders, a franchise worth approximately $1.1 billion.

The high bids for the broadcast rights came despite data showing that TV audiences in the first five weeks of this year’s season, which began in late March, were down 30 percent from last year. last year, according to Broadcast Audience Research Council India, an industry body. .

“There is a possibility that TV audiences will shrink from now on,” said Karan Taurani, a media analyst at Elara Capital in Mumbai. However, he said that he expected the digital audience to grow by at least 15 percent.

Pradeep Magazine, a long-time sports editor and cricket historian, said the league had made India’s cricket board one of the richest sports regulatory bodies in the world.

Although the league’s broadcast rights have become a rich source of income for the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the board has been dogged by scandal. Its founder, Lalit Modi, fled the country after being fired in 2010 for financial irregularities. In 2013, an investigation into illegal gambling resulted in two teams being suspended from play for two seasons.

But the scandal hasn’t hurt the league’s popularity. In recent years, streaming subscriptions have increased by millions of new viewers, generating huge advertising revenue. Disney-owned Star India paid $2.09 billion for television and digital broadcast rights in a five-year deal that ended this season.

Tariq Panja contributed to this report.

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