Potential Rights War On Cards As ICC Open To Digital-only Bidders

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Potential rights war on cards as ICC open to digital-only bidders. The value of the current eight-year ICC rights (ending 2023) is USD 1.9 billion

Potential Rights War On Cards As ICC Open To Digital-only BiddersThe value of the current eight-year ICC rights (ending 2023) is USD 1.9 billion

Even as the cricket world is bracing up for a potential rights war between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and International Cricket Council (ICC), who are close to going to the market with their products – Indian Premier League (IPL) and the World Cups (50-overs and 20-overs) respectively – the broadcast scenario is set for a sort of refurbishment. The next cycle of ICC rights will not necessarily be television driven, there will be a level-playing field with no perceptible disadvantage for the digital players.

Just over a month ago, the ICC had given and taken presentations to and from possible clients – Star, Sony, Amazon, to name a few – on what its products will be and one of the points it had mentioned to them was that digital-only transmission will no longer be a disqualification. In fact, Cricbuzz learns that the ICC has told the parties that it is willing to consider digital-only transmission bids.

This is a distinct shift from the previous cycles when transmission through television was mandatory with threshold numbers clearly mentioned in the contracts. To break it down, hypothetically, if Star submits a bid of USD 1 billion for TV rights and USD 200 million on its digital streaming site Hotstar, and Amazon makes a USD 1.5 billion digital-only bid, the latter would win with no conditions attached.

The new clause, of course, would be independent of the Indian government rule that makes sharing of India games feed with the public broadcaster, Doordarshan, compulsory. It is also not to say that transmission on television will be confined to the public broadcaster alone if a digital player wins the bid.

Whether the proposal is commercially viable and makes sound business sense is debatable,and has got market experts questioning the feasibility of the policy shift. Neo Sports owner Harish Thawani thinks the move could be a scare tactic to make the television broadcasters go for broke.

“If true, there may be an implicit message here for the TV players to bid high,” Thawani tells Cricbuzz. “But it is not practical because there is serious revenue risk for all parties concerned. The ICC itself may lose out on ground sponsorship revenue if television broadcast is not guaranteed.

“Secondly, all major players have both markets – television and digital. If a player like Amazon goes for it, it is a different matter, but there is a lot to lose commercially through advertisement if there is no television screening. Besides, the TV channel carriers like Tata Sky, Videocon and other DTH players will not transmit these channels,” he points out.

Thawani's argument is based on the fact that television's reach in India is huge and always expanding. As per the BARC data, the television-viewing homes in India have increased to 210 million last December from 197 million two years prior to that, taking the TV audience in the country to approximately 900 million (considering, on average, there are about four-five viewers for every television set).

The counterpoint, however, is that the ICC may not be far off the mark in the new strategy as India has the second-largest online consumer base in the world with surveys suggesting that the country's internet users are expected to grow to 650 million from the current 550 million by 2023. The ICC rights will come into effect only from 2024. Thawani, however, contends that there are only about 100 million active OTT subscribers in the country currently.

Other topics on the agenda

The ICC had stated long back that it will first sell India rights of the eight-year cycle (2024-31) and will go global with its properties once the Indian broadcaster has been identified. The ICC has also indicated that it is seriously considering giving the parties the option of bidding for only four years but both clauses will have to get approval from the ICC board, which is expected to meet around November 15-16.

The value of the current eight-year ICC rights (ending 2023) is USD 1.9 billion while the five-year IPL rights (ending with the 2022 season) were sold for USD 2.5 billion in 2017.

The BCCI also recently announced that it will initiate the IPL rights (for the 2023-27 period) sale by October-end and complete the process by mid-November. The ICC sources say that they were always aware of the BCCI's plans to leapfrog in the bidding race and claim that the two – the IPL and the World Cups – are entirely different products.

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