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Indian Premier League Cricket Overtakes Match Value Of English Soccer As Viacom18 Emerges From Auction As Big Winner

The e-auction’s over, and became clear yesterday, Viacom18 is the big winner of Indian Premier League cricket rights. The company bagged digital rights in India for 410 games over the next five years for $2.6B and today followed up with the international rights for three of the other big cricketing nations — Australia, South Africa and the UK — for around another $420M.

Disney, the previous streaming home of the tournament, keeps TV rights for the 2023-2027 period, paying $3B, while Indian firm Times Internet took the U.S. and MENA (rest of world) rights.

The agreements are game-changing for two key reasons. Firstly, the combined value of the deals (about $6.2B) means the IPL is now the second-most valuable sports tournament in the world behind the NFL in terms of value per match, overtaking the English Premier League soccer and giving the rights holding-Board of Control for Cricket in Indian (BCCI) a massive payday.

Secondly, it reshapes the ultra-competitive Indian streaming market, with Viacom18 — a joint venture of Paramount Global, Reliance Industries and James Murdoch-owned Lupa Systems — propelled into a starring role it has not had before.

Viacom18 operates Jio, a free streaming service popular with mobile-phone users, and will launch Paramount+ in India in 2023. It’s not yet clear where the IPL matches will be played or how they’ll be windowed but there are ample opportunities for growth if handled properly. 

For Disney, whose Star India subsidiary previously owned all Indian subcontinent rights, losing streamed matches with inevitably cost Disney+ Hotstar subscribers but will save it a huge chunk of cash. For context, in 2017 Disney paid less than half of combined value of digital TV and rights of this year’s figure ($5.6B) for both sets.

Disney had inherited the rights when it acquired 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets in 2019 and used them to create India’s biggest streaming service within three years.

In a statement, Disney Chairman, International Content and Operations Rebecca Campbell said: “We are pleased to extend our association with the Indian Premier League and look forward to offering the next five seasons across our portfolio of television channels. We made disciplined bids with a focus on long-term value. We chose not to proceed with the digital rights given the price required to secure that package.

“IPL is an important component of our portfolio of television channels in India, providing an incredible opportunity for us to showcase The Walt Disney Company’s powerful global brands and iconic storytelling, as well as Disney Star’s impressive collection of local original content, to millions of viewers in India.”

Jay Shah, Honorary Secretary of the BCCI, tweeted today: “The digital landscape has changed the way cricket is watched. It has been a big factor in the growth of the game.”

He added: “The BCCI will utilize the revenue generated from [the] IPL to strengthen our domestic cricket structure starting from grassroots, to boost infrastructure and spruce up facilities across India and enrich the overall cricket-watching experience.”

That experience will be key to the future of Indian streaming.

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