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Digital rights for IPL set to soar as Reliance Jio and Amazon could enter the fray

MUMBAI: It is not just the television telecast rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) that will see frenzy bids, led by Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Star India. The digital rights for the cash-rich T20 league will also touch a new roof with new players joining the bidding race.

r JioIndications are that Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio Infocomm will bid for the digital rights and may not look at the TV rights. Ambani has a presence in the television business through TV18 Broadcast while his ambitious project Reliance Jio has crossed 16 million customers within a month of its launch on 5 September.

Incidentally, Reliance Jio has purchased the IPL tender document.

Amazon is also expected to make a serious bid for the digital rights of the IPL. Though Times Internet has picked up the tender document, it is not clear whether it will bid aggressively. The documents for IPL are priced at $10,000.

AmazonBroadcasters Sony and Star will also bid for the new cycle of digital rights for the IPL. While SPNI owns Sony Liv, Star India runs Hotstar.

Speculation is that the Chinese telecom companies would form a consortium to bid for the IPL rights. Incidentally, GroupM has bought the tender document for the IPL.

“With Sony and Star India fighting it out, it was a given that the TV rights fee would climb stratospheric heights. The new 10-year cycle of TV rights for the IPL could cross Rs 20,000 crore. Now with Amazon and Reliance Jio possibly in the fray, even the digital rights could see a huge jump in prices,” a media analyst said.

The BCCI has kept the TV rights tenure for the Indian subcontinent 10 years, while the international and digital rights are for a five-year period.

Currently, the Indian subcontinent TV rights are with Sony. The Indian subcontinent digital rights along with TV rights of certain international territories are with Star India-owned Novi Digital, which runs VoD service Hotstar.

IPLSony’s new deal with the BCCI, which was signed in 2009, was worth over Rs 8,200 crore (Rs 82 billion). Novi had bagged certain media rights for Rs 302 crore (Rs 3.02 billion).

Though Zee has purchased the tender document, it has a four-year non-compete clause with Sony after the sale of Ten Sports. Zee also runs an OTT platform under the dittotv brand name.

Among the 16 tenders picked up so far, some companies are interested in acquiring international rights outside the Indian market. ESPN could bid for the US region while UK-based Sky Sports and BT Group are likely to bid for Europe.

In the Middle East, Al Jazeera Media Network-owned IN Media and Dubai-based pay TV network OSN could seek to secure the rights. The others who have bought the IPL tender document include SuperSport, a South African group of channels owned by Naspers, and telecom major Econet. Houston-based data analytics firm Followon has also evinced interest.

SPNI has bought the tender document without prejudice. Incidentally, Sony’s contention has been that its existing contract with the BCCI gives it the first right of refusal as well as the right to match a counter-offer.

The BCCI has divided the invitation to tender (ITT) process into three rights packages—Indian subcontinent TV rights; Indian subcontinent digital rights; and rest of the world TV and digital rights.

The last day for submission of bid is 25 October, 9.30 am. The new rights cycle will come into effect after the 2017 edition of the IPL.