Cricket is gold: $6 billion in broadcasting rights in India

By Hugo Barcia

New Delhi, Jun 17 (EFE).- This week, the Indian Premier League became the second most valuable league of any sport worldwide, surpassed only by the NFL in the United States, after an outlay of more than $6 billion to broadcast cricket for the next five seasons.

This figure triples the cost of the last bid in 2017, when consuming sports media on digital devices was still an undiscovered market, and Star India, Disney’s local subsidiary acquired the TV and digital rights in the same package for $2 billion.

In the last five years, the IPL experienced a 100% increase in the number of digital viewers, so the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the governing body of the sport in the Asian country, chose to do something different this year: to auction separately the broadcasting rights for both platforms.

The decision was justified as Viacom 18, a joint venture between Paramount and India’s Reliance Industries, paid $3.042 billion for the digital rights, just more than the $3.019 billion Star India paid to regain the TV rights.

Together, the deals will bring the BCCI more than $15 million for each of the 410 IPL matches over the next five seasons, placing it behind only the American NFL, where matches involve an investment of $37 million.

The last IPL season, which concluded in May, was the first to record higher digital audiences than television audiences, according to a recent report by Indian financial advisor Elara Capital, which estimates that the number of virtual viewers reached 421 million, compared to 380 million for TV.

An upward digital trend that will reach 722 million viewers in 2028, and that contrasts with the fall in television audiences, which after registering a peak of 462 million in 2020 will continue to decline to stabilize around 350 million viewers.

However, Viacom 18’s investment will not pay off for a few years, Elara Capital vice president Karan Taurani told Efe, who said that much work remains to be done to adapt the platform to the new content, and insisted that the investment is not merely a sporting one.

“Viacom has bought (the rights) more from a strategic point of view. (…) It leads to a higher valuation for the platform in particular, creates a large user base, and can also cross-sell its other content to subscribers,” Taurani explained.

Elara Capitals estimates a 30% increase in digital revenues over the next five years, compared to between 6-8% for TV.

“The market is very fragmented. You need to have compelling content where the winner takes all,” the expert said on the holding power that the IPL has over the Indian viewer.

Despite changing consumption patterns, TV ads still attract more than half of media revenues, although digital platforms are expected to catch up by 2028.

It is a reality that will not be lost on advertisers, the managing director of the advertising agency ‘Rediffusion’, Sandeep Goyal, told Efe, who highlighted the opportunity this decentralization of advertising will present to the digital medium.

“In digital, there are many things you can’t do on TV, for example, incorporate social commerce,” Goyal said, explaining that on mobile or tablet the user can instantly click on the ad and buy what they are offered.

It is an advantage that is enhanced by the fact that India “is the largest digital economy in the world in terms of payment gateways,” he said.

Owning the broadcast rights to the IPL and other cricket competitions gives it great power in India, where a large number of consumers sign up for one company’s premium package or another primarily for cricket content.

And despite being a minority sport in much of the world, as evidenced by the 3% share of global cricket broadcasts in 2021, its huge audience in India and the rising revenues it generates are bringing the IPL ever closer to competing with the world’s biggest sports leagues.EFE


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