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Broadcasters concerned over transparency of ICC rights bidding

Less than a week away from the bid submission date for ICC’s broadcast rights in its biggest market, significant concerns remain among media companies in India, concerns that manifested themselves through the absence of four major broadcasters from ‘mock auctions’ organised by the ICC on Wednesday.

Disney Star*, Zee, Sony and Viacom, the companies which recently participated in the highly competitive e-auction for the IPL rights, did not attend training sessions the ICC had set up ahead of the actual submission of the bids for the next cycle of ICC events. The sessions are intended to familiarise bidders with the platform through which bids will be submitted.

A number of bidders have completed the sessions or are scheduled to do so on Thursday and the ICC, for their part, are expecting the rest to provide slots to do so in the next couple of days.

Those who have stayed away from the sessions have raised concerns to the ICC around the transparency over the process of awarding these rights, for ICC events from 2023 to 2031. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that all four broadcasters are uncomfortable with the fact that the bids will not be made public, or even shared among those participating in the process.

The ICC has reserved the rights to conduct an e-auction in the event of the top bids being close, or not meeting the ICC’s expectations – the broadcasters are believed to be unhappy about the opaqueness in this instance of what would be considered close. They say it is reasonable to expect to know what margin of difference would trigger a second round of bidding.

Until recently the ICC had ruled out an e-auction, their chief commercial officer Anurag Dahiya arguing that the way they were unbundling their rights – for men’s and women’s events separately, for digital and TV and across four- and eight-year packages – meant it would be too “complicated” for an e-auction of the kind the BCCI held for the IPL.

But if a second round of bidding is now needed, that will take place as an e-auction. Broadcasters are also seeking more clarity from the ICC as to how bids for a four-year package and an eight-year one will be judged against each other. It is understood that the ICC has an algorithm in place and a multiplier figure that produces the best benchmark figure for them to be able to compare bids across different durations and platforms. That mechanism is not public, however.

The bids are meant to be submitted by August 22, when the technical elements will be assessed and due diligence carried out to make sure each one meets ICC requirements. The financial aspect of the bid will be kept with an independent body and will not be opened until August 26. The ICC is believed to not want a public opening in case the bidding is competitive and close enough that there may be a need for subsequent rounds.

The ICC continue to work through clarifications with the bidders but it is unlikely that any part of the bidding process will change now – as bidders have suggested different processes, changing it now might seem to be favouring one bidder over another, a situation the ICC want to avoid.

The game’s governing body sent out its first Invitation to Tender (ITT) for its rights in June, for TV only, digital only and for both; women’s event rights have been unbundled from that of men’s events and packages are available for four and eight years. ESPNcricinfo

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