IPL media rights: Sony to evaluate bidding for both broadcast and digital property

After the inclusion of two new teams and an enthralling mega auction, the stage is set for selling the media rights for television and digital telecast of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for 2023/27 through an e-auction, and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) will evaluate to bid for both the properties of the cash-rich league.

The Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the IPL media rights is likely to be floated soon, which will be followed by the e-auction. There was an internal debate earlier on whether to go for an e-auction or a closed-envelope bid, as done for the recent team auction, but finally the BCCI decided to go for an e-auction as it is much more transparent.

Notably, the Disney-owned Star currently has the media rights of the lucrative league. Star India had bought IPL’s media rights for the current cycle, 2018/22, for Rs 16,347.5 crore.

However, the Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), which held the media rights for 10 years (from season 1 to 10) after paying Rs 8,200 crore, is keen to get back the property that they had nurtured for a decade.

“SPNI will evaluate bidding for both broadcast and digital rights for the upcoming IPL,” the company told IANS.

Sony has expanded its bouquet after its merger with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and they are expected to bid together for the rights, and clinching the IPL property could give them a huge boost in the market.

However, the road to success for them won’t be easy as there are several other names in the fray as well. Disney-owned Star, Reliance-Viacom18 and Amazon are other big players in the market and grabbing the media rights could lead to a bidding war.

The Walt Disney Co India and Star India has already made it clear that the company won’t shy away from investing heavily and is going to be bullish on IPL rights renewal. On the other hand, there were reports that James Murdoch, son of media baron Rupert Murdoch, and Uday Shankar, former Star and Disney India chairman are planning to acquire nearly 40 per cent stake in Viacom18 and subsequently could bid for IPL media rights.

When IANS reached out to Uday for his comment on the deal, the veteran said that there is no concrete development on that front. He jokingly added that “media reports should be taken with a lot of salt”.

So, it will be interesting to see the next move of Reliance, who in recent times has picked up the media rights of a clutch of sporting properties, including the NBA (National Basketball Association), FIFA World Cup 2022, Spanish football league La Liga, Abu Dhabi T10 (cricket) and others.

Representatives of Reliance didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Amazon, who is already embroiled in a retail war with Reliance in India, has also intention to wholeheartedly go for the IPL rights, having started streaming cricket events. They have close to 20 million Prime users in India and the IPL can give them a quick jump.

Notably, Amazon doesn’t have a TV channel so it could make a joint bid with another TV network or the company could make a play just for the digital rights.

Overall, the bidding war will definitely help BCCI in getting a windfall from the IPL media rights deal.

According to industry experts, the combined value of the rights for the next five-year cycle (2023/2027) could be close to Rs 50,000 crore, a big jump from the current rights holder’s bid of Rs 16,347.5 crore for 2018/2022.

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