The Indian Premier League final may have been done and dusted last month but the scramble for fresh rights is about to begin. And as always, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is expected to earn a windfall even in the times of uncertainty surrounding its administrators. The digital and media (read: broadcast) rights are up for grabs next month, on 17 July.

Two BCCI officials, who spoke to The Ken on a condition of strict anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the press, estimated the digital rights to fetch anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1000 crore for a five-year period, while the broadcast rights could see the cricket board getting richer by upwards of Rs 16,000 crore for a similar period. For perspective, Novi Digital Entertainment Ltd, a Star India subsidiary which runs Hotstar, paid Rs 302 crore in 2015 for a three-season deal, between 2015-2017. And in 2009, Sony Pictures Networks (earlier Multi Screen Media Private Limited) paid Rs 8,200 crore for broadcast rights till 2017.

“While these are merely estimates, we expect potential bidders to follow the trend,” one of the BCCI officials said, while referring to a generational shift in how people have come to consume live sport, IPL more specifically. In other words, mobile, thanks to cheap smartphones and cheaper data. To cite just one example: Hotstar revealed its share of IPL consumption in 2017 through mobile to be 86%, up from 61% from the previous edition. It also claimed that 85% of the total viewership on its platform came from viewers below the age of 35 years, of which 48% of the viewers were aged between 18 and 24, while 37% belonged to the 25-34 age group.

Which is also why, late last year, the early signals were being sent by these bidders. Digital was to emerge as the new battleground of sorts. When the BCCI announced the sale of the IPL digital and media rights in September 2016, it managed to attract almost every big player in the game—18 of them. From existing television conglomerates (like Star India, Sony-ESPN) to large foreign tech companies (Amazon, Twitter and Facebook) to key Indian digital content companies (Times Internet). Even a telecom company, Reliance Jio, was in the fray.

86%

Consumption of IPL 2017 on Hotstar through mobile. In 2016, it was 61%.

But amidst all this, one name stood out. Even leaving BCCI officials surprised; of course, pleasantly. It was Amazon.

The unusual winner?

Think of Amazon as your quintessential unusual suspect. It won’t be unusual, though, if you are caught off-guard, thinking “What on earth is an e-commerce company doing in an IPL rights auction process?” The answer lies in that question itself.

AUTHOR

Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

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