Jeff Bezos and Ambani set to battle over $7.7 billion cricket rights

The world’s richest men, Jeff Bezos and Mukesh Ambani, are ready for another clash. One of the world’s fastest-growing sports events, this time attracting 600 million viewers and a brand value of nearly $ 6 billion, is the fight over the media rights of the Super Bowl of cricket.

The billionaire companies are expected to be the top two contenders in the Indian Premier League auction on June 12, which could attract several bidders for separate, five-year telecasting and online streaming deals across different geographies. According to people familiar with the matter, entrepreneurs are preparing aggressive game plans to ensure victory. Other fierce competitors include Walt Disney Co., which owns the rights to a season that just ended this year, and Sony Group Corp.

For the two first-time participants, the country is home to 1.4 billion people. To become a 1 media player is more of a risk than just a shot. English sport has a cult-like status in the former British colony. Reliance Industries Limited of Ambani and Inc. of Bezos Both are betting that the game will serve as a gateway to their ultimate goal: to dominate the increasingly online Indian consumer market.

Karan Taurani, a media analyst at Mumbai-based Ellara Capital, said, “The auction is a bet on India’s story over the next decade.” “Bidders are putting money on the hope that data-driven Indians will dictate the future of every business, from retail to banking and from travel to education.”

People familiar with the matter have said that since mid-2021, 65-year-old Ambani has been identifying and hiring experienced executives for the job. They include Anil Jayaraj and Gulshan Verma, who helped him achieve a previous deal at 21st Century Fox Inc 2017.

People familiar with the developments said Ambani’s trusted Lieutenant Manoj Modi and eldest son Akash Ambani were in the Reliance War Room. The latest alliance with Uday Shankar, former head of Fox and later Disney’s India and Asia Pacific operations, also adds strength to the team.

A separate group of people said that Amazon, which has identified the IPL among half a dozen global sports franchises that are interested in it, is equally determined to win. One said that thinking is against conservative play. The retailer Titan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on European soccer rights and has signed a deal to air Thursday night football in the US for $ 1 billion.

Disney + Hotstar

Disney needs to decide how much to shell out, according to people familiar with the matter, flying top executives to Mumbai from its headquarters in Burbank, California. Failure to retain the rights inherited from US entertainment giant Fox’s $ 71 billion three years ago is more likely to be lost. The purchase came with Hotstar, a streaming service popular with cricket fans, prompting Disney’s relatively new position in the Indian market.

Globally, the Disney + streaming service has over 138 million paid subscribers, of which Disney + Hotstar accounts for more than a third. Rival Netflix Inc. Despite the fall, Disney + added 7.9 million new subscribers in the quarter ended April 2. More than half of them come from Disney + Hotstar, which is served in India and several Southeast Asian countries.

Amazon’s Prime Video Country Head Gaurav Gandhi declined to be interviewed for this article and Amazon did not respond to an email seeking comment. Representatives from Disney, Reliance and Sony declined to comment.

When IPL was launched in 2008, Apple Inc. The iPhone was only a year old and live streaming was still rare. Now, as more and more Indians watch content online, including smartphones, digital rights are expected to take a huge premium.

The IPL is a long-running tournament, usually held in April and May each year. Ten teams, mostly players from the British Commonwealth, play matches every three hours, which is a shorter and more entertaining format compared to classic five-day Test cricket. According to its organizer, the Indian Cricket Control Board, the annual IPL tournament, which draws more than half a billion viewers, has made the English soccer and the National Football League the only global hit.

The IPL will be valued at about $ 5.9 billion in 2020 by Duff and Phelps, known as Kroll. That number could increase by 25%, Santos N, managing partner of D&P India Advisory Services, said.

For the first time, BCCI will exclusively auction IPL broadcasting and streaming rights. Grab has four contracts, including a selection of major fixtures, along with television and digital rights in the Indian subcontinent and overseas. Ellara’s Taurani said that if total bids reached $ 600 billion ($ 7.7 billion), more than three times the bids collected in 2017, more than three billion rupees ($ 7.7 billion).

The share has also increased in the Indian retail market with increasing competition between Amazon and Reliance. More recently, two companies have been involved in a bitter legal dispute over control of local retailer Future Group. Neither was successful.

After that breakdown, some are calling the cricket rights fight Ambani vs. Bezos 2.0.

As for Disney, a person with knowledge of the matter said the prospect of a reasonable bid seemed to be retreating, asking him not to discuss internal issues. The aggressive bidders, such as Reliance and Amazon, can come up with an “open purse” that will make the price a prime in terms of future ad revenue.

Disney bids for both local and overseas – and digital, but may abandon broadcasting in favor of increasing its offer for live-streaming.

While top executives at Amazon and Disney headquarters determine auction strategies and prices, many people track developments in companies. Final numbers for the most sought-after claims could exceed $ 1 billion a year, he said.

Tarun Pathak, Research Director of Consultancy Countpoint Technology, said that the target of winning the auction is not based on traditional profit and loss logic, but on the assumption that a few hundred million Internet users will be committed to various digital transactions. .

“Amazon took the commercial and built a premier video content business on it,” Pathak said. “If Reliance wins, it takes the opposite approach – building commerce on the subject to make Geo a household name,” he said, referring to its technology division.

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