Amazon and Reliance set to lock horns with Disney and Sony over IPL rights


Amazon India’s rivalry with oil conglomerate Reliance Industries looks set to head to the cricket pitch, where they will likely face media heavyweights for the broadcast rights to India’s premier cricket league with its hundreds millions of viewers.

Amazon and Reliance are set to take over the Indian units of Sony Group and Walt Disney for five-year exclusive TV and digital rights to the two-month series of matches, at a cost that could reach a record Rs. 50 000 crore, sources familiar with the companies’ plans said.

“Cricket is the second biggest sport in the world with two and a half billion fans and IPL is like its Super Bowl,” said Anton Rublievskyi, director of Parimatch, a betting company that has advertised in the Premier League. India (IPL) last year. “If you are not there, you do not exist.”

Disney-owned Star India, which is one of India’s leading broadcasters along with Sony and its planned acquisition of Zee Entertainment Enterprises, has paid Rs. 16,348 crores for digital and television rights until 2022. league reached 350 million viewers in the first half of the 2021 season alone, on Disney+ Hotstar and Star Sports channels.

But traditional media companies now face fierce competition from deep-pocketed rivals like Reliance, India’s biggest retailer, and Amazon, two billionaire-led giants competing for the rapidly growing e-commerce market. while developing their digital platforms. Amazon runs Netflix-like rival Prime Video, while Reliance offers JioTV to its telecom and broadband subscribers.

Amazon and Reliance are already locked in a legal battle over the acquisition of the assets of Future Group, another major Indian retailer.

Reliance is also in talks with investors, including foreigners, to raise up to $1.6 billion (about Rs 11,920 crore) for its broadcast joint venture, Viacom18.

“Winning this bid is critical to Reliance’s long-term plans for its Jio platform and digital expansion,” said a source with direct knowledge of the company’s strategy.

“Everything that has happened at Viacom18 over the last few months, such as the purchase of the Spanish La Liga rights and the creation of a sports channel, has been built in this direction,” the source said.

Reliance and Viacom18 did not respond to requests for comment.

Amazon, whose Prime Video platform recently started streaming live cricket matches, is keen to secure IPL rights to expand the platform’s user base, another industry source familiar with the thought has said. of the company.

A spokesperson for Amazon India did not respond to a request for comment.

The company does not have a TV platform and would have to use a TV partner or could only bid for the digital part. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which administers the tender, awarded it in 2017 to a consolidated Star TV and digital bid, which outperformed all individual bids combined.

Industry sources expect flexibility from BCCI given the prospect of record payments by bidders, including a deep-pocketed digital player like Amazon.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah, in an interview with Reuters, said the board had considered various models and proposals, but he did not comment on details or the likely value of the offers.

“We will do our best to get the fair value that a tournament like the IPL deserves,” he said.

Disney India did not respond to a request for comment, but Disney CEO Bob Chapek said on a recent earnings conference call that the company is confident of hitting its subscriber targets in India, even without IPL rights.

Sony’s entertainment unit in India said it would evaluate bids for broadcast and digital rights.

However, some industry players question the sharp increase in the cost of rights and its sustainability.

“IPL has come to a stage where it is now too big to fail and so everyone in the ecosystem supports it,” said advertising industry veteran Meenakshi Menon.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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