ICC eyes $4 billion-plus media rights prize money for Indian market


The ICC are about to discover how much their cricket is worth when they open bids for the Indian market from various broadcasters on Friday. At stake are the rights to broadcast ICC events – men’s and women’s – for the next four or eight years, on TV and digital, straight to your device of choice. And given the massive amounts generated by the bidding for the IPL, there’s an expectation that the ICC could benefit from the big money swirling around the game.

Here’s what you need to know about the bidding.

Why do I even need to know about ICC rights when all I care about is who my team plays next?
Because, ultimately, the money from these rights forms a chunk of the money that makes the rich (India, England and Australia) richer but keeps the game going in the smaller member countries. So, if you care about that, you probably better care about this too.

Fine, so what’s being bid for?
A whole bunch of events from 2023-31: 16 men’s events (over eight years between 2023-31) and six women’s events (over four years – between 2023-27). World Cups, Champions Trophy, T20 World Cups, U19 World Cups, you name it, every ICC event – men and women – you watch until 2031 will be part of this deal.

Brought to me by?
As ESPNcricinfo understands it, one or more of Disney Star*, Sony, Zee, Viacom and Amazon.

And am I watching it on my phone, TV, tablet?
Either, both, all. For the first time, the ICC has unpacked its rights. No longer is it selling one set of TV rights to the highest bidder; it is now selling its rights as separate packages of TV only, digital only, and TV and digital combined. All three are for four or eight years. In case any of the packages are sold for only four years, the ICC will open another window to sell the rights for the second four-year period.

That sounds like bidding could get complicated.
That’s exactly what four of the main broadcasters in the running thought, and several emails were sent to the ICC about the lack of transparency in the process. And as a symbolic protest, they didn’t initially attend some training sessions – or “mock auctions” as they called them – designed to familiarise them with the process.

Disney Star, Zee, Sony and Viacom expressed various concerns over the transparency of the bidding process. TL;DR: the broadcasters were unhappy with the fact that the bids were not going to be shared once opened, among those who bid; that there was no clarity about what margin of difference between the best bids would be too close to trigger a second round of bidding; and they wanted to know more about how the ICC would judge a bid for a four-year deal against a bid for an eight-year deal.

What happened next?
The four broadcasters eventually did go ahead and put in bids, and according to some reports, the clarity they wanted has been given. For example, according to a report in the Times of India, broadcasters have been told that if a bid is within 10% of the highest bid/combination bid, it will trigger a second round of bidding – only this time through an e-auction (more on that shortly).

There has also been some more information around a pre-determined multiplier, which will be used to judge an eight-year bid against a four-year one. The ICC will look at the best bids for both tenures and then look at the ratio between the two, compare that with the multiplier, believed to be set at 2.8. If the ratio for eight years exceeds the multiplier, then the ICC will pick the winner for the eight-year bid. If the ratio is less, then the highest bid for four years will be selected.

I’m sorry, what?
Here’s an example. If the best four-year number is 100 and the best eight-year number is 270, the ratio is 2.7 (270/100). That is below the 2.8 multiplier set by the ICC. So in this case, the ICC will go with the highest bidder for four years. But if the best bid for four years is 100 and the highest bid for eight years is 300, then the ratio of 3 means the ICC will pick the highest bid for eight years.

Does that mean there could be an e-auction, like the one at the IPL?
Only, as we say, if the second-best bid is within 10% of the best bid; the first round of bidding is the old-school, sealed-bid methodology, which the ICC says has worked best for years (some broadcasters wanted an e-auction from the start, after the success of the IPL). The ICC also argue that the unbundled nature of their rights offering means that it is too complex for a simple e-auction process. In fact, at first they had ruled out an e-auction but have since stepped back from that. The e-auction, if needed, will take place a few days later.

Why have they gone to the Indian market first?
In short: money. It is cricket’s biggest market and as the IPL rights proved, there is massive appetite among the biggest broadcasters there for more cricket content. The ICC is banking on the belief that since two different broadcasters – Disney Star and Viacom – have won the TV and digital rights respectively for next five-year cycle of the IPL, both as well as other participants will bid aggressively to bag the second biggest rights in cricket, that of the ICC.

Underpinning this is also simple maths: by unbundling its package of rights into men’s and women’s events, into digital and TV, by going into different territories, they stand to make much more money than they have in previous cycles.

I’m not sure how it has taken this long to get to the crux of this: how much money are they expecting to make?
Nobody can be certain but here’re some facts. In the last cycle, the ICC sold its rights for just over US$2 billion. But that was a different, linear world: that figure was for all rights on all platforms globally. For this cycle, the ICC is believed to have a benchmark figure in mind, an “asking price” of $1.44 billion for a four-year deal and $4 billion (1.44 multiplied by 2.8) for an eight-year deal. That is double the last deal for eight years, and it is only a benchmark figure – so the minimum they expect – and it is only for the India market.

Expectations have risen not just because of the way broadcasting and the digital landscape has changed since the last cycle, but because there is more content. There were six men’s events in the previous eight-year cycle, whereas there will be one annually in this next cycle. Six of the eight events fall in the Indian time zone; India play host to three men’s event; four of the eight events in the next cycle take place during the Diwali festive season when the Indian market is usually in spending mood.

Separate women’s rights will help. An element of development still remains, in that the highest bid will not necessarily guarantee the winner. The ICC is keen to find the right broadcasting partner who can promote women’s cricket globally. The highest bidder(s) will make a presentation in front of the Media Rights Advisory Group (MRAG) – formed specifically to adjudicate the bidding – to showcase how they aim to help women’s cricket grow, and that will not just be limited to the global events but the overall game.

*Disney Star and ESPNcricinfo are part of the Walt Disney Company.


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