While Sony Pictures Network and Star India were among the first to pick up the documents, some big digital players also in the running are Amazon (US), Facebook (US), Twitter (US) and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio. Jio, was launched in September, also has a cable distribution licence.
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“With the global trend of showcasing content on multiple platforms becoming increasingly important, TV, Internet and mobile rights are up for grabs together this time. To have as many as 18 prospective bidders in the fray reinstates the faith of market forces in the Indian Premier League,” said BCCI President Anurag Thakur.
“Our intention is to ensure the most comprehensive coverage of the IPL across the globe,” added Ajay Shirke, honorary secretary of the BCCI.
The bids are to be submitted by October 25. On the same day, the bids will be evaluated in two phases, technical and financial. Research firm Deloitte has been roped in to ascertain the eligibility of applicants. Once an applicant is cleared, lawyers from Amarchand Mangaldas will evaluate the financial bids. The winning bids are expected to be announced by evening.
For Star and Sony, the TV rights to the IPL are necessary to bolster the sports business. However, for the digital players, the stakes are much higher. All four leading digital video candidates are looking at India as a focus market.
“The IPL is by the biggest sports property in the country and having it will give any digital video player an edge. Facebook, Twitter, Jio and Amazon will look at the IPL to kickstart their digital video service in the country,” said Indranil Das Blah, COO and partner, CAA KWAN, a sports marketing agency.
The interest from digital players does not surprise experts since the world over digital rights to sports events are picking up steam. "With 4G speeds and better devices, digital video streaming is being adopted fast and advertisers also see merit in investing in the medium. Facebook and Twitter have deep pockets and they are ready to invest in properties over a period of time," said a media planner.
Facebook Live dabbled with sports video telecast with the Premier Futsal League earlier this year and both Twitter and Facebook have a plethora of brand partnerships in place for various sports tournaments.
Amazon, which launched its Prime delivery service in the country three months ago, is expected to launch its premium video service in the coming months. It has been on a content acquisition spree recently, signing deals with leading Bollywood studios like Dharma, Vishesh Films and T-Series for movie streaming and library building. It has also signed an agreement with GreenGold animation and is working with Indian talent to produce Indian content for the platform.
The IPL, which is digitally telecast on Hotstar, has proven to being a spike in traffic to the app/portal. STAR India’s online video streaming platform more than doubled its reach (unique viewers) for the IPL in 2016. The platform registered 100 million people using the service, compared with 41 million a year ago.
The cash-rich Twenty20 tournament came under STAR India’s digital ambit in 2014 when it was made available on starsports.com. Last year, Hotstar was introduced, helping viewers see the tournament on the app.