The e-auction for the Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights for the 2023-2027 cycle has produced some astoundingly insane bids.

The e-auction for the Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights for the 2023-2027 cycle has produced some astoundingly insane bids, proving that the T20 cricket league is well on its way to becoming one of the grandest in the world. Package A (for TV) and Package B (for Digital) have been sold for unbelievably high costs, beating all previous figures. The BCCI earned a whopping Rs 23,575 crore (which comes to Rs 57.5 crore per game) for TV rights, while Package B for Digital was sold for Rs 20,500 crore (Rs 50 crore per game). If you combine the two, the figure comes to Rs 107.5 crore per match. 

Just to put things into perspective, the current IPL media rights are held by Star India for the 2017-22 cycle. Star had won the bid for Rs 16,347.50 crore for both TV and digital back in September 2017. Before that, Sony Pictures Network won the IPL TV media rights for a period of 10 years when the tournament started. They had a bid of Rs 8,200 crore. 

IPL as big as the NFL and the EPL?

Recently, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly claimed that the IPL generates more revenue than the English Premier League (EPL), the most popular football tournament in the world. If we look at the figures in terms of per-game broadcast valuation, he is right. As per figures collated by The Times of India, the IPL is now the second costliest sporting league in the world, next only to the NFL. 

If we analyze the per-game cost (including both TV and digital) of the big sporting leagues, the National Football League (NFL) stands first. A game of NFL costs a broadcaster about $17 million, which is the highest for any sports league in the world at the moment. The IPL is now second with $13.4 million. IPL is followed by the English Premier League ($11 million), and the Major League Baseball figure is almost the same as well. BCCI Secretary Jay Shah had earlier told The Indian Express that in the last five-year cycle, they earned $9 million from one IPL game. 

Apart from 

Package A (for TV) and Package B (for Digital), BCCI is also selling rights in Packages C and D, so the overall valuation will only grow higher. Package C includes 98 games for five years in the non-exclusive digital category, while package D has bid for overseas TV and digital rights.

Now, the IPL’s rise is amazing because it is only a 15-year-old tournament. In terms of a sporting event, it can be termed a baby. In comparison, the National Football League (NFL), which is a professional American football league that consists of 32 teams, was formed way back in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA). The foundation of the English Premier League, contested by 20 clubs, occurred in the early 1990s. As for the Major League Baseball, the professional baseball organization is the oldest major professional sports league in the world. 

In that term, the IPL has taken a giant leap. And it is only set to grow bigger. As per reports, each IPL season will have 74 matches, including the qualifiers, eliminator, and the final. However, the BCCI is planning to expand the tournament to 84 or even 94 in the last 2 years of the upcoming 5-year cycle, that is 2023 and 2027. When the Gujarat Titans (GT) and Lucknow the Super Giants (LSG) joined the IPL for the 2022 season, the number of matches increased from 60 to 74. There is every reason for the BCCI to go for an expansion or even host the tournament in two halves as the IPL grows exponentially higher. 

Good news for BCCI, bad news for viewers?

While the BCCI will enjoy the windfall for sure, and cricket fans wouldn’t mind watching some extra IPL games, there is a genuine possibility that the viewers might have to shell out more from their pockets. Since the TV and digital companies will be paying Rs 57.5 crore per game and Rs 50 crore per IPL game for the upcoming five-year cycle, there is every chance that the rates of TV channels and streaming platforms showing the matches live will go up. This is the business of profit after all, and that’s how the dynamics work. 

Of course, there will be commercials in between overs, during the match, and in-brand promotions as well. Expect a lot more than before. Cricket commentary might even end up looking like a promotion for a brand. But will that be enough to cover up the costs? Doesn’t look practically feasible. The other option is thus to increase the rates of the media platforms presenting the matches. 

Earlier this year, Viacom 18 launched the network’s dedicated sports broadcasting channel priced at Rs 8. Before the IPL, the channel had already bagged the TV rights for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, NBA, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Abu Dhabi T10, and top ATP and BWF events. How much the price will rise is difficult to predict, but it will be surprising if the rates remain the same. 

Speaking of digital rights, Disney + Hotstar presently has three subscription plans – Super (Rs 899 per year, Super + Ads free (1099 per year), and Premium (1499 per year). There could be a jump in rates here as well. 

All said and done, while the BCCI will be laughing all the way to the bank, the viewers shouldn’t be celebrating just as yet. If the prices of TV channels and streaming platforms rise by extreme numbers, it will leave a bitter taste in the mouth, especially for the average consumer who is already battling high prices in daily life. Thus, the mega companies who have shelled exorbitant sums to bag rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) would do well to keep the consumer in mind as well.

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