Amazon, Reliance to lock-horns for IPL broadcasting rights: Report

The multi-national brands of India; Amazon and Reliance set to lock horns with each other over the broadcasting rights of IPL

Amazon’s rivalry in India with oil-to-retail conglomerate Reliance Industries is set to face each other in the cricket field where they will lock horns with each other over IPL broadcasting rights.

Amazon’s rivalry in India with oil-to-retail conglomerate Reliance Industries is set to face each other in the cricket field where they will lock horns with each other over Indian Premier League (IPL) broadcasting rights, a league that has millions of viewers. Inc and Reliance Industries Ltd are expected to take on India units of Sony Group Corp and Walt Disney Co for exclusive five-year TV and digital broadcast rights to the two-month series of IPL matches, at a cost that could run to a record Rs 50,000 crore ($6.7 billion), sources familiar with the companies’ plans revealed.

Disney-owned Star India, which is one of the top broadcasters in India along with Sony and its planned acquisition Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, has paid Rs 16,348 crore for the digital and television rights til 2022 and the interesting fact is that the league’s matches reached 350 million viewers during the first half of the 2021 season alone.

But traditional media firms now face serious competition from deep-pocketed rivals like Reliance, India’s biggest retailer, and Amazon, two billionaire-led behemoths competing for the fast-growing e-commerce market while building up their digital platforms.

Amazon and Reliance are already set up in a pitched courtroom battle over the acquisition of assets of Future Group, another India’s biggest retailing company.

Reliance is also in contact with the investors, including foreigners, to raise $1.6 billion for its broadcasting joint venture, Viacom18.

“Winning this bid is critical to Reliance’s long-term plans for its Jio platform and its digital expansion,”

said a source with direct knowledge of the company’s strategy.

“Everything that has happened at Viacom18 in the last few months, like buying rights to the Spanish La Liga and setting up a sports channel, has been building up to this,”

the source said.

Meanwhile, Reliance and Viacom18 did not respond to the request for comments.

Amazon, whose Prime Video platform recently started working on live cricket streaming wants to win the IPL rights to increase its user’s date base and to increase the company’s domain in the cricket section.

An Amazon India spokesperson did not comment on the request.

The company lacks a TV platform and needs a partner who has a TV platform or can only bid for the digital platform. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which runs the tender, awarded it in 2017 to a consolidated TV and digital bid from Star, which surpassed any of the combined individual bids.

Industry sources expect flexibility from the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) in terms of the record payments by bidders including a deep-pocketed digital-only player like Amazon.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah, in an interview with Reuters, said that the board has discussed all the models and proposals but he did not reveal the details or likely bid value of the dollar.

“We will do our best to derive the right value a tournament as the IPL deserves,”

he said.

Among the media majors, Disney India did not respond to a request for comment but Disney CEO Bob Chapek told a recent earnings teleconference that the company was confident of achieving its subscriber targets in India even without IPL rights.

Sony’s India entertainment unit said it would evaluate bids for both broadcast and digital rights.

Some in the industry, however, are questioning the sharp rise in the cost of the rights and whether it is sustainable.

“The IPL has got to a stage where it’s now too big to fail and therefore everyone who is part of the ecosystem is propping it up,”

said advertising industry veteran Meenakshi Menon.