Sony India, having grabbed the broadcast rights to the international matches the Indian team will play in Australia and England, already has some 57 days of cricket under its belt in 2018-19. The Indian cricket team will be touring both these countries in the current financial year. But Star India has with it the rights for 60 days of bumper cricket bonanza, the Indian Premier League (IPL) T-20 series, which it bagged after ending arch rival Sony India’s 10-year reign. Meanwhile, Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio Infocomm is joining the party and is eyeing some of the plum broadcast rights in the ongoing Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) auctions. The e-auctions, which began on Tuesday, will continue today. What do these media rights mean for the three candidates in the fray – Sony India, Star India and Reliance Jio? Business Standard takes a look at the three companies and assesses why they would be bidding aggressively for the broadcast rights on offer: Winning the BCCI broadcast and media rights for the Indian cricket team’s bilateral international matches at home – up for grabs for five years in the ongoing auction – could bring Sony India back in reckoning for the cricket sweepstakes, especially after the company lost the IPL rights to Star India. With the Indian team slated to play 28 days of international cricket at home in 2018-19, these rights will be very important not just for Sony but also Star. Also, with Reliance Jio also in the fray and waiting to upset the apple cart for the two biggies, the battle is expected to be fierce. The entry of a third strong player in the cricket media rights sweepstakes might also change the cricket broadcasting battle for good. Since Sony India has already won the rights to India’s matches in Australia and England, it might be able to close some gap with Star India, in spite of the IPL loss. However, Star India has won broadcast rights to Asia Cup, as well as India’s tour of New Zealand, so it will have 79 days of cricket in 2018-19.
Should Sony win the BCCI rights, the balance could change dramatically; the company would overtake Star India with 85 days of cricket, roughly over 52 per cent of international match days during the year. But if Star wins the crown once again – it held the rights until March this year – it would clearly become the king of the business, with a control over 65 per cent of match days during the current financial year.
Reliance Jio, of course, made an abortive attempt for the IPL digital rights earlier. But Star India, which made an integrated offer, stole the show. For Jio’s part, grabbing cricket digital rights would give a major leg up to the content strategy for driving more data usage among its 160 million customers. Also, it will help the company expand the market. The group controlled by Jio promoter Mukesh Ambani also has Viacom 18, which runs a bouquet of channels, including Colors. But it does not have a dedicated sports channel at present. Viacom 18 had earlier pointed out that it chose to stay away from cricket because of the high cost of rights. However, that might well change now.