Amazon and Reliance set to lock down cricket media rights in India

Amazon and Reliance set to lock down cricket media rights in India

A Mumbai Indians fan blows a horn as he arrives to watch the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match between Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers at a stadium in Mumbai May 14, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer /Picture file

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MUMBAI, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Amazon’s rivalry in India with oil conglomerate Reliance Industries looks set to head to the cricket pitch, where they are likely to face media heavyweights for the broadcast rights of the India’s premier cricket league with its hundreds of millions of viewers. Inc and Reliance Industries Ltd (RELI.NS) are set to acquire Indian units of Sony Group Corp (6758.T) and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) for five-year exclusive television and digital broadcasting rights to the a two-month series of matches, at a cost that could reach a record 500 billion rupees ($6.7 billion), sources familiar with the companies’ plans have 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.

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“If you are not there, you do not exist.”

Star India, owned by Disney, which is one of India’s leading broadcasters along with Sony and its planned acquisition Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEE.NS), has paid Rs 163.48 billion for digital and television rights until 2022. League matches reached 350 million viewers in the first half of the 2021 season alone.

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. L4N2IB3MD

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

Reliance is also in talks with investors, including foreign investors, to raise up to $1.6 billion for its broadcast joint venture, Viacom18. Read more

“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, said another industry source familiar with the thought. of the company.

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

The company does not have a television platform and would have to use a television 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. Read more

Among the media majors, 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 it will meet its growth targets. subscribers 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 reached a stage where it is now too big to fail and therefore everyone in the ecosystem supports it,” said advertising industry veteran Meenakshi Menon.

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Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; Additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Euan Rocha and Edmund Klamann

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