By Alokananda Chakraborty
The much-anticipated battle between Reliance Industries (RIL) supremo Mukesh Ambani and his counterpart in Amazon Jeff Bezos over the media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) has turned out to be an anti-climax.
Amazon on Friday withdrew from the high-voltage race along with Alphabet (Google) even as the technical bids before the mega auction on Sunday concluded.
The pullouts are, however, unlikely to be a big setback for the BCCI as the auction for the 2023-27 period is estimated to fetch anything between `45,000 crore to `60,000 crore.
The field has now narrowed to Disney Star, Reliance Viacom Sports 18, Sony Network, Times Internet and North America’s media giant FunAsia. Experts, however, said the real fight will be between the first two entities.
A top BCCI official confirmed Amazon’s surprise exit, as it is learnt that Amazon communicated with the Indian cricket board in this regard early on Friday, ahead of the evaluation of the technical bids.
“Amazon has a great balance sheet but as a standalone, digital-only bidder, it would’ve had a challenge recouping such a big investment on streaming,” Mihir Shah, vice-president and India head at Media Partners Asia, was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
BCCI, which had said it was very confident of delivering a “record-breaking number” for the next cycle, had sold the five-year rights (2018-22) for television and digital combined to Star Sports India at `16,347 crore.
For the 2023-27 cycle, the reserve price has been set at `32,980 crore, which was found absurdly high by a few bidders in view of the over 34% decline in viewership in the just-concluded edition. NP Singh, MD & CEO of Sony Pictures, has termed the base price as “very aggressive”. A talent management executive, who handles a range of sports people outside of cricket, said, it’s going to be a three-way contest on bidding day among Star Disney, Reliance Viacom Sports 18 and Sony/Zee. “Don’t forget that IPL 15 broke all records in terms of sponsorships. It’s going to be a photo-finish, he said.
Media consultant Nandini Das said, for all practical purposes, it’s going to be a serious fight between two contenders this time. “Reliance Viacom Sports 18 will give Disney Star a run for its money for the combined rights. For one, in this combine you have Reliance which has a tremendous appetite for sports and you have Uday Shankar who got IPL for Star,” she said.
Sandeep Goyal, MD, Rediffusion, agreed. “This contender looks the most promising but Disney Star is unlikely to give them a walkover. Star has had a complete monopoly over cricket for the last 10 years and even when IPL was with Sony (Star snapped up IPL rights in 2017) Star held right for every other India cricketing tournament.”
The talent management executive said while it’s true that franchisee owners have done little to keep the excitement going outside the IPL months per se, the country hardly has anything outside cricket. The IPL brand is valued at $5.9 billion, according to Kroll’s (formerly Duff & Phelps) IPL Brand Valuation Report 2020. The BCCI estimates it is worth $7 billion. With the inclusion of two new teams and more matches, its valuation has risen considerably.