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Volume IconWill the fall in IPL viewership impact the big media rights auction?

After TV viewership of IPL dropped by 30%, there are demands to bring down the reserve price for the media rights auction for next five-year cycle. Will this have a bearing on media rights sale?

IPL 2022 MS Dhoni hit 28* off 13 balls to lead CSK to victory over MI. Photo:@IPL

The 15th edition of the Indian Premier League came to a close on Sunday. Debutants Gujarat Titans were crowned the winnerS after they defeated Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets. 

All eyes are now on the upcoming e-auction of the league’s media rights, which is set to commence from June 12. It promises to be a high voltage event.

Indian cricket’s governing body BCCI has set the reserve price at Rs 32,890 crore for the 2023-27 cycle of the IPL. 

This is nearly double of the Rs 16,347 crore that Star India, now part of The Walt Disney Company, shelled out for the last five years for consolidated TV and digital bid.
Sony Pictures Networks India held the media rights for the first 10 years, for which it paid about Rs 8,200 crore. 

For the next 5-year cycle, the rights will be sold in four buckets and interested parties have to bid separately for each. 

The four categories are:

>Television rights for the Indian subcontinent
>Digital rights 
>Non-exclusive digital rights for a set of 18 matches, which include the season opener, four playoffs and evening games of weekend double-headers, and
>Rest of world

At least ten companies have reportedly picked up the bid documents by paying the BCCI a non-refundable fee of 29.5 lakh rupees including GST. 

These include Disney-Star, Sony, Zee Entertainment, Amazon, Apple, Google, Sky Sports UK and South Africa’s SuperSport. Amazon’s Prime Video recently began live-streaming cricket matches and reportedly wants to win the IPL rights to expand its user base.

However, a sharp fall in IPL’s TV viewership has led some in the industry question the base price for media rights.

Sony Pictures Networks India’s MD and CEO NP Singh told a financial daily earlier this month that the reserve price needs a reality check amid the decline in viewership. 

IPL’s viewership fell by 30-35% in the first four weeks of the 2022-season compared to last year’s figures.  

With viewership falling consistently, some advertisers had reportedly asked Disney-Star to make good their loss by offering them spots on other high-impact properties.

Maruti Suzuki Executive Director Shashank Srivastava had on May 1st said that in the first 25 matches, television ratings for the company’s target group of males, between 22 and 40 years of age, dropped by around 58%.

He added, the carmaker was in discussions with Star for additional Free Commercial Time on ‘live’ matches so that the overall reach numbers and commitments that were made could be met.

Experts pointed to possible reasons for the viewership fall, including audience fatigue given this season was the longest ever – lasting 65 days and 74 matches with two new teams.

Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, which are among the most consistent sides with large loyal fan-bases, displayed poor performance. They ended the season at the bottom of the points table. 

The performances of big names like RCB’s Virat Kohli, CSK’s MS Dhoni and MI’s Rohit Sharma were also lacklustre. With zero super overs this season, the audience also did not get to witness the kind of nail-biting finishes they seek. 

Santosh Desai, MD & CEO of Futurebrands Consulting says too much reshuffling happens in IPL, teams need some stability. As the pandemic waned, people spent more time outside.Fundamentally, Indian Premier League or cricket has not lost its charm, he says.

K Madhavan, President of The Walt Disney Company India and Star India, had said Disney-Star will not engage in a bidding war and pay multiple times more even though it is looking at retaining the media rights. He told Business Standard that it will only go for bidding if it makes for a viable business. “If someone offers 10-times for the property, we are not there,” he said.

However, cricket has proved to be a winner for streaming giant Disney+. It added nearly 8 million new subscribers worldwide in the March quarter — half of them courtesy Disney+ Hotstar. 

The service now has over 50 million paid subscribers, accounting for 36.4% of the total paid subscriber base of Disney+.

Still, does the reserve price look too high in view of the dip in viewership numbers?

Speaking to Business Standard, Karan Taurani, Senior VP - Research Analyst, Elara Capital, says TV broadcast rights may attract a premium of 25-30% over the base price. OTT rights may attract a premium of up to 100%, and on a consolidated basis, media rights could sell for Rs 55,000 cr to Rs 60,000 cr. 

Desai of Futurebrands Consulting says IPL is a hot property for both media houses and advertisers. And, competition will ensure bids stay above the base price. Those who are serious about the Indian market cannot afford to miss this property. But it would be a concern if viewership keeps falling, he says.

As analysts say, IPL is still one-of-a-kind asset giving advertisers sway over hundreds of millions of viewers while helping broadcasters gain additional user base. Given this, the temporary drop in viewership will not be a dampener for BCCI, which can expect the media rights to sell well above its base price. 

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First Published: May 31 2022 | 7:00 AM IST

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