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Ambani beats Disney to BCCI cricket media rights for $721 million

Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s broadcasting unit grabbed rights to televise and live stream the national cricket team’s bilateral matches for $721.41 million, in its latest win over Walt Disney that had previously held the rights.

Reliance Industries-owned joint venture Viacom18 won the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) media rights for international and domestic games from September 2023 to March 2028, the cricket administrator said on Thursday.

The company already owns digital streaming rights to the popular Indian Premier League Twenty-20 (IPL T20) tournament.

Ambani snatched away the rights from the Disney Plus Hotstar streaming service in a $2.9 billion bid last year, and then streamed games for free.

This prompted Disney subscribers to flee – out of 61 million users in October 2022, about 21 million had left by July this year.

“A single entity securing both TV and digital rights is mutually advantageous as it enhances negotiating leverage in contrast to two separate players, which fuels competitive rivalry, dampening overall revenue,” said Elara Capital analyst Karan Taurani.

Disney did not bid aggressively for the BCCI rights as it sees a decline in viewership for such matches and is instead looking to focus on profitability in India, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

It has, however, decided to show the ongoing Asia Cup cricket tournament and the ICC Cricket World Cup, set to begin in October, for free on smartphones in hopes to boost advertisement revenue and offset the impact of subscriber exodus.

Disney did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Last year, Disney renewed its media rights to show International Cricket Council’s tournaments in India from 2024 to 2027 after winning a bid for $3 billion.

It later licensed the TV broadcast rights to India’s Zee Entertainment (ZEE.NS) and only regained the digital streaming rights, a source told Reuters. Reuters

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