After securing the digital rights of IPL, Viacom18 moved ahead with a focus on bilateral cricket, acquiring both television and digital rights. On Thursday, Viacom18 won the bid for the Indian Cricket Control Board’s (BCCI) bilateral media rights (2023-28) in both the television and digital categories, making a successful comeback.
This move will make the Indian board richer by over ₹5,963 crores for 88 matches. This means the collective value per match is approximately ₹67.8 crores, which is nearly 13 percent higher than the approximately ₹60.18 crores paid by Disney Star in the previous cycle.
No one wanted to break the bank for bilateral cricket. It’s worth noting that the current value is significantly less than the ₹78.9 crores (the final year of the deal) paid by Disney Star for bilateral cricket in 2023 – a hefty five-year deal – suggesting that the space isn’t growing.
However, the increase in value could be modest – BCCI received a 40% premium in the previous cycle – Indian board officials will be looking at events from a half-full perspective.
The IPL, packed into a two-month window showcasing the world’s top cricketers in the popular T20 format, has positioned itself as the preeminent revenue generator for the richest board in the game. The market’s response to Indian bilateral cricket genuinely suggests that they will remain relevant.
Jay Shah, BCCI‘s secretary, stated, “Today’s e-auction has taken BCCI to an upper echelon in the valuation of per match media rights, which is a significant step in our journey.” “Our intrinsic aim is to strike a balance between cricket and commercial interests.”
With the exception of India, England, and Australia, no cricket-playing country can benefit from bilateral cricket anymore, as the landscape has shifted to franchise-based leagues.
Digital Again Overtakes TV
The e-auction bolsters the trend towards higher digital valuations. The winning bid for digital was ₹3,101 crores, compared to ₹2,862 crores for television. Growth in the digital sector was established for the first time during the previous IPL rights, where the value for television was slightly more (50.19%). The current rights have increased this margin slightly to 52%.
Regarding the context of a higher increase from base value, the increase for television was higher than digital – 41% to 63%. However, this might be attributed to the broadcasters pursuing exclusivity.
Viacom18 gave equal weight to both television and digital rights.
They were competing against Sony. NP Singh stated, “Our disciplined bidding was based on the market’s pre-estimate and a long-term growth strategy.” Sony India’s MD, Mr. Singh, mentioned in a statement after bowing out. Disney Star didn’t offer any comments that might indicate their participation.
Sports business analyst Karan Taurani said, “Having both (television and digital rights) on one platform benefits bundling and also offers better negotiation leverage with advertisers.” Instances have been seen in IPL where rival broadcasters shared each other’s advertisements.
A broadcasting executive mentioned, “New-age companies are grappling with funding shortages in adverse advertising scenarios, and the fantasy gaming sector is yet to recover from the new GST regulations. If television and digital rights were separated, it would seriously impact revenue realization.”
For Viacom18, this signifies their first major male cricket acquisition for their sports channel Sports 18 in India. Besides the digital rights for IPL, they also hold television rights for the Women’s Premier League, SAE20, and Cricket South Africa until March 2028. The 88 matches for India (25 Tests, 27 ODIs, and 36 T20Is) will help them stay afloat throughout the year; Test matches have been made contextually relevant now with the World Test Championship qualification.
The current rights cycle starts in September with a three-match India-Australia ODI series that will serve as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup and will run until March 2028.