The Curious Case of the IPL Media Rights

For my day job with The Tomorrow Lab, I spend a lot of time looking at and talking about social media. Back in August, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, told a gathering of students “we are a tech company, not a media company”, before following it up by saying Facebook “build the tools, we do not produce any content”.

The laughs were heard from Palo Alto to Dublin and back. Facebook hosts more media than most media companies and drives more traffic to media organisations than almost any other source. But no, they’re not a media company. No sir. I have, however, always subscribed to the belief that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be duck.

And this week, Facebook started to quack to go with the waddle that it’s had for a few years now. (OK, I’ll leave the duck analogy alone now).

Indian Premier League Media Rights

The Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights are up for grabs again and in true IPL style, expect an unedifying scramble with money flying around all over India and allegations of foul play never far from the headlines.

On the subcontinent, the TV rights are available for a ten-year period (until 2027) and digital media rights until 2022, with all the rights for the rest of the world bundled until 2022. It’s no surprise to hear who holds the rights at the moment – a collection of Sony Pictures Network India and Star India are the major players, with different companies looking after the UK and US.

But a quick scan down the list of companies that have paid for the invitation to tender shows a few surprising names. Or not so surprising if you’ve been watching how digital media companies have been moving in the last few years.

Three names stand out from the list (full list at the end of the post) of mainly traditional media companies: Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. Two social media platforms and an ecommerce retailer, right?

Facebook Is A Media Company

Well, despite Facebook not being a “media company”, they have more video impressions than any other platform (8 billion daily impressions v 1 billion on YouTube). Yes, they use a spurious measure of a video view that doesn’t quite tally with what everyone else counts, but it’s still a phenomenal number. Using cricket to crack India properly wouldn’t be the worst idea Facebook have ever had – it’s a religion in India and the IPL creates lots of short form content that Facebook users loves. On top of that, the success of Facebook Live, especially for behind the scenes sports content, shows that broadcasting live video could be a big win for them.

Twitter’s Sports Heritage

Twitter already has previous in the sports market. It beat Facebook and some other rivals to secure an NFL deal to broadcast 10 Thursday games for the bargain price of just US $10 million. That’s just a million bucks a game! Twitter showed their hand when the CFO, Anthony Noto, said about the deal, “Having that live programming every night when sports are playing — with no paywall, no logging in and directly from the source — that’s key to us,”.

Amazon’s Expansion Plans

Amazon has long since left the realms of being purely an ecommerce retailer and moved into the space of digital beast that can’t easily be described. Along with drone deliveries, re-order buttons and world leading web servers, Amazon Prime is taking on Netflix and other content streaming services around the world. Adding one of the world’s most popular sports (before you question this, remember the most watched sports broadcast ever was India v Pakistan in the ICC World Cup. Bigger than the Olympics, bigger than the Super Bowl, bigger than the FIFA World Cup final) to the platform would move them into new territory that makes it more appealing to end users.

Why Are The IPL Rights Worth So Much

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is well aware of the value of the IPL, which is based on the number of cricket fans in India and the potential audience worldwide. They charge for the Invitation to Tender (ITT) – if you’ve never been involved in tendering, it’s basically the paperwork that sets out the terms and conditions for the bid. Basically, they’ve had 18 companies pay them for the right to bid millions, possibly billions for the TV rights. Surely only the IPL could be bold enough to charge for that?

And the organisation’s President, Anurag Thakur, said “this is going to be a historical moment for Indian Cricket. I am pleased to see the overwhelming response from the media and technology companies for IPL Media Rights. With the global trends of showcasing content on multiple platforms becoming increasingly important – TV, Internet and Mobile rights are up for grabs together this time. To have as many as 18 prospective bidders in the fray reinstates the faith of market forces in Indian Premier League.”

With some of the world’s biggest media companies in a fight for five to ten years of media rights for the cricket’s sexiest tournament, it’s hard to predict who will win. What companies bid, how they plan to share the content and monetise it is something that will be worth watching. From watching the huge growth of cash in football from the explosion in English Premier League media rights, one thing is for certain – the BCCI, the IPL clubs and the players will definitely be the winners over the next decade.

Companies that have purchased tender

  1. Followon Interactive Media
  2. Taj TV India
  3. Star India
  4. Sony Pictures Networks
  5. Times Internet
  6. Supersport International
  7. Reliance Jio Digital Services
  8. Gulf DTH
  9. GroupM Media India
  10. BeIN IP
  11. Econet Media
  12. Sky UK
  13. BTG Legal Services
  14. BT PLC
  15. Amazon
  16. Facebook
  17. Twitter
  18. ESPN Digital Media


Recent Comments

    Recent Posts

    Andi Jarvis Written by:

    Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply