Picture it! We are on the second fundraising day of an action-packed e auction. Media behemoths who don’t have a good day 1 – TV and digital rights have already sold out – are looking to go into overdrive.
Like adding an extra ODI powerplay with fewer boundary riders, BCCI has improved with the new digital class for IPL media rights – an 18-match bundle of non-exclusive marquee matches.
This bundle translates to the opportunity to stream some of the most sought-after IPL games (4 playoffs, including the opening match, the double header finale and the evening match) to the OTT platform. Whole Season (Bundle B).
Experts expect frantic bidding in this category for several reasons.
As BCCI Treasurer Arun Dhumal put it, ‘Some players who do not have deep pockets to go to whole matches may want to have specific pocket matches. If a small player like Fancode joins the race.
The real drama begins when one of Viacom 18 and Amazon decides to go all out. One of the two may have lost the race for a full digital bundle – Amazon may or may not bid for the full bundle – and they don’t want to wait another five years to win subscribers via the IPL route.
Don’t forget Holly Hotstar, who has already established a subscriber base and may be interested in a good advertising revenue stream. Both Sony and Zee have their own OTT platforms.
On paper, the new category looks smaller compared to the larger layout – the original price per match ₹16 crores, 18 matches per match ₹89 crores, 74 matches.
But when the asking rate in cricket is high, the chasing team must loosen up, and many participants are desperate, if they don’t want to escape, to get bidding fast. In this case, valuations in this category do not come cheap. Because the winner of the entire digital bundle does not even want to withhold, because the real value of IPL’s digital rights comes exclusively.
“Your ad pitch and subscriber base can be very weak if you get another platform right to stream major matches,” said one industry executive. “Remember there is a huge bunch of IPL viewers who don’t have time to watch every match. If your competitor is offering them cheaper, they may be tempted to go for an 18-game subscription.
This practice is in circulation in well-established American sports leagues to have separate media partners for different classes – Amazon is the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football in the NFL; Apple has exclusive rights to live stream MLB games on Friday night. But BCCI is unable to make it special in its innovative endeavor. With the limited 2-month window of the IPL, if the 18-match offer is exclusive, it runs the risk of completely undermining digital rights.
Does the new class only increase the digital price and bring the overall value to the benefit of BCCI? “This new category is likely to pull the value of Bundle B (Digital All Matches) a little bit because bidders know they still have enough money to make sure they get Bundle B,” industry observers said.
If anyone thought the auctions were a boring game, they didn’t watch their cricket.