How IPL Media Rights Auction Will Change the Sports Landscape

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How IPL Media Rights Auction Will Change the Sports Landscape

Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied.

— Henry George

Rising inflation, looming recession, global liquidity crunch, not even Covid – nothing can stop IPL! The juggernaut just keeps rolling on and on and on! A league which has been in existence for just 15 years is now firmly placed among the top sports leagues of the world, most of whom have been around for several decades or more.

Look at the facts:

  • The value of the media rights for the Indian Premier League tripled (from previous auction in 2017) in the last five years to Rs 48,309 crore ($6.2 billion), catapulting the cricket tournament over the English Premier League.
  • At $15.1 million (around Rs 118 crore) per match, the IPL overtakes the English Football League’s $11 million, leaving it behind only America’s National Football League at $17 million.

Viacom18 Media Pvt., a joint venture between Paramount Global and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. won the five-year digital streaming rights for Rs 23,800 crore, while Walt Disney Co. which owns the Star Sports network including Hotstar bagged television rights for Rs 23,600 crore.

The TV rights were sold at a 17% premium over the base price, but the digital rights went at a 50% premium. BCCI, for the first time, will generate more revenue from digital rights than from traditional broadcasting. The auction also highlights the growing clout of streaming platforms. TV viewership in India has been growing at a CAGR of 7-8%, while the digital audience is growing at a CAGR of 20-25%.

The winners of the record-breaking auction in order of the winnings in my opinion are: 1) BCCI; 2) Team owners; 3) Players; 4) Fans; and 5) Cricket. I put fans and cricket at the end because unless BCCI makes some major new investments in the coming years to improve the instadia experience, things will remain the same for the fans, and for the game.

The IPL lured more than 600 million viewers this year, thus proving that the cricket league is the quickest way to boost subscribers in the country. For Reliance, a first-time bidder, the cricket streaming rights are not just about adding millions of new subscribers, but also about fuelling their e-commerce and retail of their technology venture Jio Platforms. In a market where the consumer media spend wallet keeps getting divided into smaller pieces in an overcrowded market, Reliance may be approaching it with a ‘consolidate and dominate’ strategy. The IPL win is a strategic step in that direction.

Cricket is India’s biggest export to the world and IPL has firmly established the dominance of the country in the global cricket pecking order. 85% of global cricket revenues are attributable to India, which reflects how the sport will continue to remain the golden ticket for Indian advertisers for the next five years.

The previous IPL cycle comprised 60 matches per season. For the new five-year cycle, the IPL has listed a varying number of matches per season ranging from 74 games each in 2023 and ’24; 84 matches each in 2025 and ’26; and a maximum of 94 matches for the final year of the deal in 2027.

The ad rates during IPL 2022 ranged between Rs 15 lakh to Rs 18 lakh for a 10-second slot, which went upwards of Rs 24 lakh for playoffs. In comparison, digital advertisers paid between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) for 10-second ads.

Considering all this, this is what I, as a sports marketer, expect going forward:

  • 15-20% increase in TV advertising rates, and around 35% for digital rights next year.
  • Annual increase in rates in the range of 10-15% every subsequent year from 2023 through 2027.
  • This will call for smarter packaging of inventory by advertisers to increase ticket size.
  • Substantially higher spot-buy rates compared to packaged rates in sponsorship tiers.
  • Creation of add-on properties around broadcasts to increase overall revenues without irrational increases in live ad spot rates.
  • More focus on non-FCT inventory like graphics, bugs, bands, squeeze-backs, digital highlights packages.
  • Additional innovative impact inventory by use of AR/VR to provide substantial increase in ad revenues for rights holders.

Finally, while IPL might compare with the best sports leagues in the world in terms of media rights money, for IPL to become a ‘global behemoth’ in the true sense, the administrators will need to further enhance fan experience, upgrade the stadium infrastructure, allow teams more flexibility for year-round activation, and jointly work with stakeholders to build and protect a robust licensing and merchandising program.

But, one thing is very clear, ”the future of sports broadcasting in India is set to change.”

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Prashant Singh is Founder/Partner, Square Consulting – a sports & culture marketing firm.

(Featured image credit: Instagram/@iplt20)

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