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Disney Star and Viacom 18 share the spoils in 6 billion-dollar-plus IPL rights deal

Gujarat Titans became just the second team to win the title in their first season in the IPL PTI

The world's richest cricket league has just got a lot richer. The IPL's blockbuster media rights auction will net a potential INR 48,390.5 crore (US$ 6.2 billion approx.) in the next five years, making the league among the wealthiest in the world of sports.

Disney Star* has retained the TV rights in the subcontinent for INR 23,575 crore (US$ 3 billion approx.), while Viacom 18 secured the digital rights in the same region and media rights (both TV and digital) across three global regions - Australia + New Zealand, the UK and South Africa - for INR 23,758 crore (US$ 3 billion approx). Media rights for two other global regions - the Middle East (INR 205 crore/US$ 26.27 million approx.) and the USA (INR 258 crore/US$ 33.06 million approx.) - go to Times Internet.

Broken down further, Disney Star will pay INR 57.5 crore (US$ 7.36 million approx.) per match, while Viacom 18, who won the subcontinental digital rights for all matches at Rs 50 crore (US$ 6.40 million approx.) a match, and then committed another INR 33.24 crore (US$ 4.26 million approx.) per match for a non-exclusive package of high-profile games (ranging between 18 and 22 matches), will effectively end up paying just over INR 58 crore (US$ 7.43 million approx.) per match. Throw in the global numbers, and the IPL is now behind only the NFL in per-match value.

The overall deal for the 2023-27 cycle is 2.96 times or 196% higher than the previous IPL rights deal (2018-22) of INR 16,347.5 crore (at the time US$ 2.55 billion approx). The previous cycle comprised 60 matches per season for five years. For the new five-year cycle the IPL has listed a varying number of matches per season ranging from 74 games each in 2023 and '24, 84 matches each in 2025 and '26, and a maximum of 94 matches for the final year of the deal in 2027.

The rights were sold via an e-auction, which began on Sunday, June 12. Rights were sold across four categories: A (TV rights in the Indian subcontinent), B (digital rights in the subcontinent), C (digital rights in India to a special package of high-profile games - including the playoffs and the final - ranging between 18 and 22 per season) and D (global media rights across five separate regions).

This is the second time the BCCI used an e-auction to sell rights, having introduced it for the first time in 2018 for the sale of India's bilateral cricket rights. Back then Star India had bagged the global media rights for Indian cricket in a five-year deal (2018-23) worth INR 6138 crore (at the time US$ 944 million approx.). The average cost per match was about INR 60 crore (at the time US$ 9.2 million approx.), which is nearly half that of the IPL's per-match value in this cycle.

Apart from the obvious windfall for the BCCI, the blockbuster deal will provide a huge cash bonanza to the IPL franchises, whose share of central revenue is set to rise to nearly INR 500 crore each.

Digital rights in high demand
In this rights cycle, digital rights have exceeded the value of TV and have been the biggest driver of growth in the value of the IPL rights. The winning bid for the digital rights in the subcontinent alone was 13% higher than the overall bid Star India had made to win the global consolidated rights [TV and digital] in 2017. The importance and the rapid rise of the digital footprint in the Indian market can be gauged from the fact that in 2017, the highest bid for the digital rights was INR 3900 crore (US$ 0.61 billion approx.), by Facebook. [Despite that high bid, Star had pipped Facebook to the digital rights with its consolidated offer.]

The highest bid for the TV rights in the subcontinent was 17.3% higher than the per-match base price of INR 49 crore (US$ 6.3 million approx.) the IPL had set for it. The corresponding number for digital rights in the region saw a massive jump of 51.5% higher than the per-match base price of INR 33 crore (US$ 4.2 million approx.). Package C - digital rights in India to select high-profile games - escalated from a base price of INR 16 crore (US$ 2.05 million approx.) per match to INR 33.24 crore (US$ 4.26 million approx.), a rise of nearly 108%.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah said the trends reflected the transition to digital viewership. "There were approximately 560 million digital viewers in 2017 and 665 million in 2021. You expect it to grow even more in the coming years," he told PTI. "By 2024, there will be 900 million internet users in India. Obviously linear viewership (TV) will remain but there is a transition towards digital viewership and that's how you realise the value."

Rebecca Campbell, chairman - international content and operations at the Walt Disney Company, said of Disney Star's focus on television rights over digital: "We made disciplined bids with a focus on long-term value. We chose not to proceed with the digital rights given the price required to secure that package.

"We will be exploring other multiplatform cricket rights, including future rights for ICC and BCCI, which we currently hold through the 2023 and 2024 seasons respectively."

*ESPNcricinfo and Disney Star are part of the Walt Disney Company.