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ICC floats media rights tender, value expected to almost double for next cycle

MUMBAI: Expect hectic activity in sports broadcasting in the coming days as the International Cricket Council (ICC) has launched the tender process for sale of media rights for the 2015–2023 cycle, including the two ODI and the two Twenty20 World Cups.

The rights value is expected to climb steeply due to cable TV digitisation, growth in technology and the fact that the major events will be played in cricket’s core markets. Five out of the six events will suit the Indian time zone.

The contest will be mainly between Star India, Multi Screen Media (MSM) and possibly Reliance Industries controlled-TV18. For each of the players, the property holds high strategic value. Investing heavily in sports properties, Star will need the ICC to maintain market dominance so that it can exercise pricing power. If MSM bags the rights, it will launch a second sports channel. And as for RIL, it can provide TV18 an entry into sports broadcasting.

Incidentally, the tender process comes in the backdrop of the Big Three of world cricket getting more power in the ICC with India’s N Srinivasan being crowned as the ICC chairman.

The media rights tender offers television and digital broadcasters, content delivery platforms and media conglomerates the opportunity to own the media rights package, either globally or by territory, for ICC events which includes two editions of the ICC Cricket World Cup, two Champions Trophy events and two ICC World Twenty20 tournaments.

Significantly, three of the six events are in India which includes ICC World Twenty20 2016, ICC Champions Trophy 2021 and ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. Two events, ICC Champions Trophy 2017 and ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, will be held in England, while only one event, ICC World Twenty20 2020, will be held in Australia.

Expressions of interest are sought only from companies who have appropriate experience, infrastructure, staffing, required resources, capability and financial standing to transmit audio-visual programmes and whose primary business is in the broadcasting industry.

Expressions of interest received from media rights (and similar or equivalent) agencies will not be entertained. All interested companies should submit their expression of interest, which includes full company details and relevant contact information, by email no later than 1 August 2014.

Why the value of the ICC property is expected to climb steeply

From an Indian sports broadcaster’s perspective, the prospect of owning the ICC media rights is highly attractive since five out of the six events will suit the Indian time zone. It must be noted that almost 75 per cent of ICC’s revenue come from the Indian market and media rights is one of the biggest components.

Incumbent rights holder Star Sports will pull out all stops to retain the rights. It had reportedly paid $1.1 billion for the current deal comprised of 18 events. The deal expires after next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Ever since it acquired control of ESS, Star Sports has been aggressively vying for rights particularly those of local leagues.

Star Sports has a heavy cricket roster with rights to India, Australia and England cricket boards. Apart from these three boards, the ICC is one of the pillars of Star’s cricket rights strategy. It also has Champions League Twenty20, but that is as good as a dead investment.

For Star, MSM will be the competitor to watch out for since Ten Sports has not been aggressive when it comes to acquiring properties held by other broadcasters. Neo Sports is out of the reckoning since it is living a hand-to-mouth existence.

MSM, which once held the ICC rights, would want to have ICC property in its armour to complement the Indian Premier League (IPL). A combination of the ICC and IPL would make Sony a mighty player to be reckoned with.

If it succeeds in getting the ICC rights, it might even launch a second sports channel. It is worth noting that MSM had the rights to the ICC prior to Star Sports and had broadcast the 2003, 2007 ODI World Cups among other properties. As MSM CEO NP Singh told TelevisionPost.com in an earlier interview, the ICC rights had allowed MSM to build its pay TV business.

MSM and Star were earlier locked in a battle for BCCI and EPL rights. While Star had managed to retain both the rights, MSM did manage to give a scare on occasions.

One must not rule out Network18 from throwing its hat in the ring. Mukesh Ambani-promoted RIL, which owns Network18, is planning to roll out 4G services and what better content than cricket to get subscribers.

A sports broadcast expert notes that media rights value could double from the current $1.1 billion, thanks to cable TV digitisation and growth in technology. “I think it can double,” said the expert.

The expert goes on to note that Ten Sports will probably stay away this time around. “I think that Ten will stay away other than for the Pakistan territory. They’ve now invested heavily in their cricket boards, Champions League and I believe the WWE is almost done as well. That’s enough for them.”

The ICC’s finance and commercial affairs committee chairman Giles Clarke summed it up by saying, “Revenues from media rights sales underpin the future growth and development of cricket by ensuring certainty of revenues to ICC members. In the past few years, ICC events have grown as global properties and are now recognised as premium sports events around the world.

“The next eight years will see the ICC major events being played in cricket’s core markets, thereby making the media rights package highly attractive. I am positive we will get some strong bids from the world’s leading broadcasters as they look to add these premium sports events to strengthen their bouquet of content, thereby increasing revenues for the growth of the game worldwide.”

The ICC goes on to note that in the current commercial cycle (2007–2015), ICC events have grown significantly in reach and value. The recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 2014 was broadcast in more than 20 different languages across 200 countries, reaching a quarter of the world’s population, while the ICC Cricket World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand in February–March 2015, will have a potential reach of more than 2 billion.

Apart from the six main events, the rights cycle also includes access to matches involving some of the leading emerging nations in qualifying tournaments for the ICC Cricket World Cup and ICC World Twenty20, an opportunity to broadcast the ICC Women’s World Cup and to showcase some of the game’s rising stars at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.

ICC CEO David Richardson said, “Following unprecedented global coverage and attendance at major ICC events, and the rapidly expanding popularity of emerging nations and women’s cricket, the next eight years of ICC events promises to provide competitive matches, shine a light on current and future stars of the game, and provide world-class fan engagement and entertainment. In short, the ICC events will become a ‘must have’ for leading broadcasters and content platforms, making the ICC media rights packages much sought after in the broadcast market.”

The following ICC events are included in the media rights packages:

ICC major global events:

ICC World Twenty20 2016 India
ICC Champions Trophy 2017 England & Wales
ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 England & Wales
ICC World Twenty20 2020 Australia
ICC Champions Trophy 2021 India
ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 India

ICC qualifying events:

ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015 Ireland & Scotland
ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 Bangladesh
ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2019 – TBC
ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2022 Zimbabwe

Other ICC events:

ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2016 Bangladesh
ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 England & Wales
ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018 New Zealand
ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2018 West Indies
ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020 South Africa
ICC Women’s World Cup 2021 New Zealand
ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2022 West Indies
ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2022 South Africa

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