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PwC exit casts shadow on ICC media rights auction which is to be held this Friday

The International Cricket Council, the apex global cricket body, that is expecting more than $ 4 billion for the media rights to all its cricket events for the next eight years, seems to be struggling to get broadcasters on board for the auction to be held on Friday, especially, after the process editor PwC walked out at the last minute. Although, so far, there is no word from ICC on postponing the auction, India’s big broadcasters hope that their earlier protests regarding the lack of transparency in the closed bid auction and with PwC quitting now, the auction may be pushed.

As things stand currently, the auction is scheduled to be held at 12 noon Dubai time on Friday. In the last more than a month, big broadcasters that are in the fray for the cricket rights — Viacom18, Disney Star, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and Sony Pictures Networks India — have been consistently raising concerns around the closed bid auction. They have, in the past, requested ICC to adopt the e-auction method employed by the Board for Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the IPL auctions in June this year.

In the closed bid process, the companies have to physically submit their bids in sealed envelopes that are later opened and compared to declare a winner.

On the block are ICC matches from 2023 to 2031 that include men’s cricket, women’s cricket, World Cups, Champion’s Trophy and the T20 World Cups, among others. Bids have been invited both for a four year and eight year period. ICC will consider bids for both tenures and has devised its own multiplier formula to pick the winner.

Interestingly, after the broadcasters insisted on more transparency, ICC has also agreed to a second round through an e-auction but only if the second best bid is within 10% of the best bid. “It is a strange to bring in e-auction at stage two. Why couldn’t it be an e-auction to begin with,” said a broadcasting company executive, declining to be named. “For now, the situation is fluid. While we have not heard from ICC on change in auction date, there’s a slim chance that there may be just an e auction on Monday,” the person added.

On Wednesday, Anil Jayaraj, CEO, Viacom18, Sports, in a letter to ICC Chief Commercial Officer Anurag Dahiya, expressed surprise at PwC stepping down as ‘process auditor’ for the ongoing ICC media rights process and asked if another firm will replace it so that the auction of a “global event that has the attention of so many people who love the sport be undertaken in a fair and transparent manner.”

PWC opting out of bid process at this late stage, only re-affirms the material concerns that we have had all along on the auction process and have raised it with the ICC on several occasion in the last few days. These developments are casting a cloud over the entire bid process which should be avoided, the letter noted.

In the interest of safeguarding the sanctity of the entire process, Jayaraj requested IBC (ICC Business Corporation) “to immediately cancel the currently envisaged closed bidding process for first stage and adopt an e-auction process in entirety.”

The company said that the lack of transparency may force the broadcaster to revisit its participation in the bids. Live Mint

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