The lucrative IPL broadcasting rights for the next five years will be up for grabs later in December. As it is the most coveted slice of the Indian sports telecast/ streaming pie, the competition to win will be intense. What would it take for bidders to upstage the current incumbent? Probably join hands.
Star India, which has a strong presence in both television (Star Sports) and streaming (Disney+ Hotstar) worlds, currently enjoys the rights till 2022. IPL is pretty key to its user base in India. But to take on the might of Star, there is a need for a combined force that can challenge it as a television channel and a streaming platform.
If reports are to be believed, such an association is in the works with Sony Network, once holder of the IPL rights, joining hands with Amazon Prime Video, already a well entrenched player in the streaming media services.
According to a report in the The BusinessLine, Sony Pictures Networks India is in talks with Amazon’s online video streaming arm Prime Videos to jointly bid for broadcasting rights of the IPL for the five years starting from 2023.
The BusinessLine report, quoting sources in the know, said that the two entities are likely to come up with close to $4 billion for a joint bid for the IPL broadcasting rights.
Money isn’t the challenge
Sony, it may be recalled, had held the IPL rights till 2017 before Star stole its thunder by pipping it, Facebook, Airtel, Jio and other players to the post with a combined bid of Rs 16,348 crore.
Star, to be sure, will be girding its loins with a similar big-ticket offer. But Sony and others don’t seem to be in a mood to allow a walkover. Star has a near monopolistic hold over the telecast of ICC events in these parts. Sony, of course, has rights for cricket from Australia and England. But it is an open secret that the real money is in the ICC events and the IPL. Hence, Sony is reportedly wooing Amazon Prime Video, which itself has its own ambitions on sports telecasts.
Sony, for its part, is looking at consolidation. It is set to merge with Zee Entertainment. But the deal has run into some corporate legal issues. Sony is also working with Indian IT major TCS to revamp its SonyLiv app. Be that as may, but the point is Sony is desperate to regain its pre-eminent position in the market.
“Prime Video has been looking to get into this space for a long time now and Sony wants to win the rights back. It looks like both may join hands for the same,” a source was quoted as saying in the BusinessLine.
But will the deal work, and also be good enough to stop Star on its tracks?
Well, it is too early to answer that. For, the deal has to first happen. And it has to clear the regulatory hurdles. Assuming that is done, Star India then has a fight on its hand as Sony and Amazon can summon the big bucks needed. For the record, BCCI is hoping to get close $ 4 to 5 billion from the broadcasting rights.
The battle, as we said, will be thrilling and intense. If not for the fact that it is all backroom and boardroom maneuvers, this in itself would be worthy of live telecast.