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Viacom 18 becomes dominant player in cricket broadcasting by winning BCCI media rights

For the next five years, Indian cricket will have a new home on the Viacom 18 network. The media conglomerate, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, won BCCI’s linear and digital rights in an e-auction on Thursday.

This means that all bilateral games involving India, played in the country, along with domestic cricket, will now be on Viacom 18. The network already has the digital rights for the world’s most lucrative tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL), and is the monopoly broadcaster of the Women’s Premier League (WPL).

Viacom 18 bid the highest in both spheres, beating Disney Star and Sony, and acquired the rights for approximately Rs 5,963 crore. The break-up was Rs 3,101 crore for the digital platform and Rs 2,862 crore for linear telecast.

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The latest deal puts the value of each international match during the cycle at Rs 67.75 crore, up from Rs 60 crore that Star India had paid BCCI in the previous cycle. The total value of the winning bid last time was Rs 6,138 crore, though it featured more games (102 to 88) than are on the table this time.

The winning bid per match was expected by some to reach around Rs 85 crore, but settled at a considerably lower amount, up 11 percent from the amount in the previous cycle.

“It fills me with immense joy and a profound sense of pride to witness the remarkable growth of brand BCCI. Today’s e-auction has propelled BCCI into the upper echelons of per-match media rights valuation, marking a monumental stride in our journey,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a press release.

Last year, Viacom 18 had acquired the digital rights for the IPL for Rs 26,000 crore. The monetary valuation of an international cricket match held in India till March 31, 2028 is much lower than that of an IPL fixture (around 118 crore), implying that at least in the eyes of the broadcasters and bidders, the franchise league trumps international cricket hands down.

The disparity can be attributed to only a few marquee series (like the ones against England and Australia) grabbing enough eyeballs. With bilateral cricket against Pakistan in an indefinite freeze, contests against other teams don’t quite fire the imagination of the casual cricket fan. They do follow what’s going on in the matches, without necessarily watching the proceedings throughout the day, which doesn’t help the advertising revenue too much.

The higher valuation per match of the IPL could also be explained by the shorter duration and favourable time slots for the matches.

Striving for dominance

Recent developments also make Viacom 18 the dominant player in the Indian cricket broadcasting sphere. The Jio network has arguably changed the dynamics in the digital sports broadcasting sphere in the country. Apart from the linear rights to the IPL, Disney Star – which is telecasting the ongoing Asia Cup – will be broadcasting the upcoming 50-over World Cup as it holds the rights for the ICC events in the ongoing cycle.

The broadcasting deal covers 25 Tests, 27 ODIs and 36T20Is.

The bidding was conducted in two categories: TV for Indian subcontinent only (base price Rs 20 crore), and digital for Indian subcontinent combined with TV and digital rights for rest of the world (base price Rs 25 crore).

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This was another chapter in Viacom 18’s investment in Indian cricket. During last year’s IPL media rights bidding, they secured digital rights in the Indian subcontinent, and TV and digital rights across three global regions – Australia + New Zealand, the UK, and South Africa – for Rs 23,758 crore. They then outbid Disney Star to the global media rights for the WPL, paying Rs 951 crore for the period 2023-27.

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Thursday’s developments are another pointer to the ever-increasing marketing clout that India enjoys in the game. Apart from the huge valuation of matches in India, tours by India to other countries are the biggest source of income for the respective boards. Most of the ICC sponsors are Indian companies or those that do a major part of the business in the country. India matches are the most sought after in any major tournament, regardless of where it is played.

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As an aside, the eye-watering amounts that the BCCI earns from the sale of its media rights may explain why the paying spectator in the stadium is not front and centre in its concerns. Ticket sales and facilities at the ground still leave a lot to be desired.

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