Viacom18, backed by Disney and Mukesh Ambani, has won the five-year media rights for the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, according to various local sports journalistsbeating rivals including Sony for a license that gave the Californian giant a head start in amassing more than 200 million subscribers.
Viacom18 – a venture between Reliance and Paramount – secured the streaming rights for the Indian subcontinent region with a bid of $2.63 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. Disney has acquired the TV rights to broadcast the matches in the Indian subcontinent for $3 billion, according to local reporters. Foreign broadcast rights are ongoing and will resume on Tuesday.
Viacom18, Disney and Sony had no comment.
Launched in 2008, the Indian Premier League has helped increase the popularity of cricket in the country and beyond. For about two months every year, some of the best players in the world travel to India to compete in three-hour matches for the title. Each match draws over 50,000 fans to the stadium and hundreds of millions of people follow it on TV and online.
In the first few years, eight teams took part in the tournament, but the number rose to 10 after Indian billionaire Sanjiv Goenka bought two teams for a sum of almost $750 million and $950 million respectively, figures well above the valuation of many. clubs in the English Premier League, the richest competition in football.
Disney, which through its Star India subsidiary held the previous five-year media rights to IPL, saw the sporting event help its Hotstar streaming service attract tens of millions of subscribers and beat several world streaming records.
Some analysts, however, had recommended the company pull out of the bidding because Indian subscribers don’t bring much revenue to Disney, making it difficult to justify the high rights price.
“I would love nothing better than if they didn’t get the IPL rights and returned their subscriber number,” Michael Nathanson, senior media analyst at MoffettNathanson, told the WSJ earlier this month. “That would indicate an emphasis on financial discipline and return on capital.”
Reliance had made its intention regarding IPL rights clear over the past few months. Ahead of the auction, TV network Viacom18 partnered with James Murdoch and Uday Shankar’s Bodhi Tree company and raised capital. The duo previously ran Star India and their bet on Hotstar and cricket streaming has made the Indian app a crown jewel in Disney’s portfolio.
“The global sports industry has emerged as a mega-growth opportunity, with US sports media rights revenue CAGR of 8.2% through CY12-21, accounting for 45.2% of global media rights revenue in 2021. Of this impressive pie, football takes the lion’s share with 39%.However, of all sports, cricket dominates the Indian market, with a staggering 94% share of media rights compared to just 3% in the world,” Elara Capital analysts wrote earlier this month.
“Cricket could continue to enjoy such dominance in India, in the medium term, backed by big lucrative properties such as the Indian Premiere League (IPL). Thus, expect the renewal of the IPL supports the growth of media rights in India in the medium term.
Amazon, another key player that had shown interest in bidding for the rights, pulled out days before the auction. Meta, which bid for streaming rights last time out and won some content rights for ICC cricket events three years ago, and Google were also due to participate in the auction.