Pandemic or no pandemic, nothing really can come in the way of cricket. The interest in terms of viewership or the willingness of advertisers to spend that extra buck continues regardless of how expensive it is. Just the ability to reach millions of Indians in one stroke makes it an unbeatable proposition for brands. Think high impact over a short period and cricket is the answer.
2022 will be the year when broadcasters loosen their purse strings to acquire some of the most important cricketing properties. In fact, there will be three and to what extent they want to push themselves to just the point till when spending on cricket makes business sense is really the most important part. Just to say it upfront, it is expected that at least Rs 50,000 crore will be spent.
Broadcasting rights – television and digital – will go under the hammer for the Indian Premier League (IPL) or the most popular tournament by some distance, the ICC part -- which will have the cricket world cups -- and finally those owned by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The last one is for all matches played in India, be it international or domestic.
In 2008, the rights for the IPL were sold for just over Rs 8,000 crore to Sony. That was for a ten-year period and then Star paid Rs 16,348 crore for five years.
“The IPL rights are obviously the most important media bids to come out of India. We could now well see a doubling (or more) of the rights value,” thinks Balu Nayar, former MD of IMG and a key architect of the IPL. He points out that the broadcast fee per match for the IPL is already higher than the NBA or the MLB (both actually have many more matches per season). “We could now well see the broadcast fees per match overtaking the EPL.”
That means a sum of at least Rs 30,000 crore being spent. In terms of revenue, the current owners Star & Disney India, for the 2021 IPL season, say broadcasters, made around Rs 2,400 crore through advertisements on television and another Rs 600 crore through Hotstar, its digital medium. None of this includes what came by way of subscription.
While there is no debate on the spike in the IPL acquisition costs, how the ICC and BCCI play out is slightly different. Though the ICC has four world cups – two each from the 50 over and T20 format plus an equal number from the Champions Trophy – the big interest will be only in the matches where India plays, especially the ones where we play Pakistan and also Australia.
The limited duration of this tournament is a challenge and a broadcaster will need a lot more content for the rest of the year.
“It is not easy to run a cricket channel with just the ICC rights,” says an official at a leading network. He puts his money on one network clinching the IPL and BCCI, while ICC will go to someone else. Today, all of these rests with Star & Disney India. Who will eventually cut those huge cheques is most interesting. Apart from the incumbents, there is Zee, Sony, Jio and perhaps even Amazon and Facebook.
In terms of numbers, the ICC rights were acquired between the 2015-23 period for Rs 11,880 crore, while BCCI, for 2018-22, went for Rs 6,138 crore. Even a 15 per cent hike takes the cumulative amount to almost Rs 21,000 crore.
“The ICC and BCCI rights are a quantum level below the IPL – as we used to pitch in the early days, India never loses at the IPL, and this reduces the risk considerably compared to other rights. Since the IPL rights would be held first, the “losers” would bid aggressively for the normal BCCI cricketing rights to have some presence in cricket.” says Nayar. He agrees that the ICC rights would come last in the pecking order.
“I suspect that these have lost their sheen, and the BCCI rights have the advantage of continued presence through the year, which aids a subscription business,” he adds.
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