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IPL mulls multiple broadcasters in new rights deal

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The new media rights tender for the Indian Premier League (IPL) could have a compendium of bundles that would ensure the involvement of multiple broadcasters. As against the recent practice, all parts are unlikely to be put in one basket and sold exclusively to one party. The idea behind this, as a Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) insider says 'the more (the parties), the more (the revenue)'.

The genesis of the idea finds reflection in the sale of English Premier League (EPL) rights in which Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Sport have got rights to broadcast the football matches. All broadcasters - television and digital - buy a certain number of matches to show exclusively, with BBC putting out daily highlights package, again exclusively. The EPL may have a reason not to engage with a single party, because of the strict anti-monopoly laws in England, but the IPL, with no such restrictions, in fact, could go a step further.

Industry insiders reveal that one of BCCI's plan is to create a non-exclusive category. This feature of the tender, expected to come out in about a fortnight's time, could be a package that will enable multiple television stations to broadcast the same games, simultaneously.

It may push the expected revenue beyond Rs 30,000 crore with multiple parties among Star, Sony, Reliance's to-be-launched sports channel and Amazon getting a pie of the IPL, considered the most lucrative cricket property in the world. "That is apparently a suggestion given to the BCCI. We will have to wait for the ITT (Invitation To Tender) document to see if it has been implemented," said a top executive of a media selling company.

What will constitute this cluster of games is still being brooded over, but the initial information is that the weekend games could be put in this bundle. That could be 32 games in the expected duration of eight weeks (counting two double-headers each weekend) and add up to 45 per cent of the 74 matches of the league.

The idea may not exactly enthuse the broadcasters - as the initial feedback from the executives Cricbuzz has spoken to reveals (one broadcast executive went to the extent of saying no one will bid for this) - but they seem to be getting reconciled to the fact that if they lose out on the full property, they can still have a part of it. Besides, not many stakeholders question the BCCI's decisions as demonstrated over the years.

Another feature of the rights would be the segregation between television and digital rights, something BCCI secretary Jay Shah recently indicated. If implemented, it would eliminate the system of a composite bid - one jumbo offer to appropriate out all packages with a mega amount which would be higher than the sum of the different parts. It was through a composite bid that Star staved off the dual challenge from Sony and Facebook last time. The amount was a staggering and mind-numbing figure Rs 16,347 crore.

To help broadcasters recover the investment, the BCCI is also believed to be planning to increase the strategic timeout duration to three minutes from the existing 150 seconds. Usually, there are about 100 units of 30 seconds each (about 3000 seconds) for advertisements, including timeouts, in an IPL game. Extended timeout duration means more time for the inventories.

Finally the big question: what could be the ultimate number that will buy the rights. Going by the logic, a 10-team league means 14 extra games, just about 25 per cent increase in the number of matches which should automatically translate to 25 more in the revenue - which should be Rs 20,000 crore from the existing Rs 16,347 crore.

Now, many experts are predicting the IPL value to double. If one were to calculate by the widely accepted market formula of Rule Of 72, the IPL should have grown by 14.5 per cent in the last five years for its value to grow from Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore. The big question is, has it?

The BCCI has done the research through the services of KPMG, the professional agency that is advising the board on how to maximise the IPL rights revenue. The general impression is that it has grown but only by May when the process will end, will one know if the league has actually grown by 14.5 per cent or beyond that. Two more months!

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