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Bidding for ICC broadcasting rights likely to get intense with Mukesh Ambani’s entry; Amazon, FB may also join

The International Cricket Council (ICC), cricket’s governing body, expects more intense bidding this time with Asia’s richest man and Reliance Industries chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani likely to enter sports broadcasting through its subsidiaries – Network18 Group and Reliance Jio.

The Economic Times citing a senior ICC official mentioned in a report that, the global governing body of cricket has decided to auction the media rights of its events separately for the Indian subcontinent, hoping it will generate a higher value than clubbing the biggest cricketing market with the rest.

The cricket crazy Indian subcontinent — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — generates most of the revenue for the sport’s broadcasters globally with India accounting for the biggest share.

So far, the sports broadcasting market has seen bidding wars between Star & Disney India and Sony Pictures Networks India. But with Mukesh Ambani’s entry, ICC expects bidding to become more intense.

The ICC will start the auction process early next year, the business daily mentioned citing the official. “The council has decided to carve out India rights — broadcast and digital — for the next rights cycle that starts from 2024. The process will start after the Indian cricket board completes auctions for the IPL media rights,” the business daily quoted the ICC official as saying. Bidders for the ICC contract will be free to bid for four years or eight years.

ET first reported last month that the ICC is mulling on the idea to sell rights territory wise and for four years, instead of the usual eight. “It will be a transparent process and the final nitty-gritties are being worked upon,” the person said.

Earlier, the ICC wanted to go to market in November with its media rights, but changed the plan after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that it will begin the process of auctioning the media rights of its biggest property, the IPL, by the end of this year.

“We are not fighting with the BCCI or the IPL. We know IPL is the biggest property. Once the benchmark for IPL gets set, there will be at least three or four sore losers, who will then bid aggressively for the ICC rights to have a meaningful sports play,” the official said, hinting at a serious competition for the rights among Star & Disney, Sony Pictures Networks and Reliance Industries-owned Viacom18.

The business daily citing experts mentioned that Amazon and Facebook are also expected to go after sports rights as they are looking to grow their video business in India.

For the last cycle (2015-2023), Star Sports paid $2.02 billion for the global rights. Experts feel that around $1.2-1.3 billion of that should be apportioned to India. “The value of the ICC media rights for the Indian subcontinent alone could go up to $1.7-1.8 billion easily,” the ET report quoted Tuhin Mishra, MD of sports marketing firm Baseline Ventures as saying. “These are one of the biggest sports media rights after the IPL and are much sought after.” According to Mishra, it is a no-brainer for the ICC to separately sell India rights. “Clubbing with global rights would not have unlocked the true value as there are a few global broadcasters. But there are many players in India — established and upcoming — who will need ICC rights for their respective sports portfolios.”

The eight-year rights will include two ICC Men’s Cricket World Cups (2027, 2031), four Men’s T20 World Cups (2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030), two Champions Trophies (2025, 2029) and four World Test Championship finals (2025, 2027, 2029, and 2031).

Apart from senior men’s events, there will be women’s as well as under-19 events.

In an earlier interaction, Anurag Dahiya, chief commercial officer of the ICC, had told ET that the governing body’s approach to the rights will evolve, keeping in mind the fastchanging broadcast and digital industries. He had added that the ICC may also be looking at different partners for different territories, rather than signing with one global partner.

However, some media experts and senior broadcast executives are cautious about the price. “Everyone will want the ICC rights, but the biggest question is at what price. The issue is the pricing and not the interest,” said one of them. Times Now News

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