Television

Star, Sony or Etc, BCCI will have the last laugh

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MUMBAI: If you have the set-up, we have the story. If you have the money, we have got the ideas. In spite of all IPL bidders prepared to make the highest bid for the media rights, what are the chances that BCCI may favour the ones who have the infrastructure and wherewithal to give the game maximum and utmost exposure and BCCI the best mileage? A level playing field for IPL broadcast rights bidders is suspect.

The India digital rights and rest of the world rights are for five IPL seasons each, between 2018 and 2022 and the Indian sub-continent television rights being offered are for 10 IPL seasons (2018 – 2027).

It is being speculated that broadcasters may have the upper hand in the selection of the winner of IPL media rights. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said it has sold 18 tenders for the IPL rights. However, experts speculate that the tendering process may have been tilted in favour of television broadcasters.

The row is connected to the format in which bids had to be submitted. The original tenders had specified that separate bids would have to be made for the three buckets into which media rights have been divided — India digital rights, television broadcast rights for the Indian subcontinent, and a third one for international media rights.

In the new bundled versus separate format, if a single bidder were to quote higher than the sum of individual bidders globally, that bidder could walk away with all the rights. This change will significantly benefit Sony Pictures and Star India one of which may pocket all IPL rights. BCCI changed the bidding pattern and dynamics to permit consolidated bids across digital, TV, and international, the Times of India had reported.

The probable winners hence could be Sony Pictures or Star India. These two broadcasters only seem to be keen for television broadcast rights, the biggest media rights component. This modification could make it uncertain for international or digital rights bidders to compete for those rights. Crucial interest was shown by Amazon, Twitter, and Reliance Jio, and by ESPN and Sky Sports for digital rights and international rights.

Sources familiar with the tendering process said that BCCI reserved the right to pick either separate bids or consolidated bid. Bidders were earlier asked to give a separate value for each of the three packages. But, later, bidders were allowed to put in a single figure for all three rights, making it difficult for BCCI to compare consolidated bids against bids for individual rights pieces.

By permitting TV broadcasters to put in one figure for all three packages, it seems to have nullified the international or digital bidders such as GroupM, Amazon, or ESPN, from being able to bid at par with the established TV broadcasters.

This could also bring down the number of stakeholders BCCI may have to deal with. The new proposed change will also keep out deals between the BCCI and international broadcasters in key territories.

Sports broadcast giant Star India and its competitor, Sony Pictures Network, seem to be in neck-and-neck race for television broadcast rights. The latter has been arguing with BCCI that its existing contract grants it the first right of refusal. While SPN enjoyed the telecast rights to Twenty-20 tournament since inception in 2008, Star India has been making inroads into IPL system. SPN has grown the property on television with innovations around language feeds, marketing, and monetising the IPL from a distribution and advertising stand-point. The 2016 edition of the IPL reached nearly 350 million TV viewers in India, a significant boost over 2015's 200 million viewers thanks to the addition of rural households in the reporting of television viewership.

Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties, had told Business Standard, that, "It is no longer about the bouquet or distribution. The biggest change in the sports broadcast landscape is that the rights will now be awarded on the basis of production and packaging. When there are only two options, the organiser will go for the one that will present the property in the best way possible. Investments in sports production should increase now."



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