ECB, CA media rights India value heads for a hit

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Live cricket is the most watched television sport in India. What is the second most watched sport? Repeat telecast of cricket! That was the fact until a year ago. Now the eyeballs around sports game is changing in Indian television sphere. Kabaddi is inching close to sports – still a long void, though. However, this describes the values of Indian market for global media rights players. ‘India the ready market for cricket saying’ now is highly unlikely to hold true for England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket Australia.

ECB has floated its document to invite bids for the 2020-2024 media rights cycle. CA’s existing India rights contract runs only up to 2017. The 2012-2017 cycle for India was acquired by ESPN-Star Sports @ US$ 212 million. The Australian cricket board will be hitting the market soon for the next cycle of these rights. Star, by virtue of agreements between ESS-CA and ESS-ECB, holds the rights for in the Indian territory for both these board. ECB deal for the 2013-2019 period was inked at $200 million.

The response in STAR to for the renewal bids is subdued. “You know where our energies are focused now. Indian Premier League is the priority,” says a senior resource engaged with media rights evaluation, acquisition and distribution in STAR. “Bilateral series are no more the same for us. Non-India matches are a certain deficit. That will now be the most crucial factor to evaluate any overseas cricket board’s rights.

“Rights values for these boards (ECB and CA) will rationalize in the light of emerging domestic properties and market trends. International bilateral series are not invoking similar response from sponsors. Ratings have declined,” said the source, on condition of anonymity.

The CA rights will be out for sale in the market when BCCI is beginning the bid process for the IPL media rights for the next five-year cycle. Two major sports broadcasters in India – STAR and Sony – will have no other business on their table till the time IPL process is complete.

Consistently increasing IPL viewership ratings, converting into better sponsorship revenues have made IPL “the property to grab for at all costs” for the Indian broadcasters. Bilateral series even in India come later.

High stakes around IPL are not the sole deciding factor. A platform like STAR has at least 200 days of live content in its kitty. Pro Kabaddi League, Hockey India League, Premier Badminton League, Indian Soccer League are commercial more viable options than non-India live cricket. This is a proven fact. Sony on its FTP has Pro Wrestling League, Premier Futsal, Super Fight League and Super Boxing League.

“Let us not forget, these Indian domestic leagues have a strong potential as commercial properties. We have invested on building these. Results are better than expected. We see future around these domestic properties, which have opened new markets for broadcasters,” says the Star Sports official.

So where does this leave the MEDIA RIGHTS values of the other cricket boards for the Indian market ?

This market (other boards cricket rights in India) is set to shrink by 30-35%, believe the market experts. D-Sports entry in the Indian market can be a saving grace for property owners as the new entrant in the market will be looking for some live content.

The scenario will certainly make CA and ECB to re-evaluate their values for the Indian territory. That too major – if not lone – contributing factors to this value will be Team India’s matches in England or Australia. The theory of inflation will be subdued by the ‘declining demand’ factor. Restructuring of domestic tournaments and commercial leagues taking precedence of commercial aspects of bilateral series are set to have a rationalizing impact on values.

“Cricketing nations are revamping their domestic structure. National leagues have invoked tremendous viewership and sponsors interests. With better acceptance of domestic leagues, Other Cricket Board rights are in India are bound to take hit. Broadcasters for Indian territory are getting other options to their better advantage. This will reason out the values of bilateral series,” says Ashish Chadha, media rights veteran and Chief Executive, Sporty Solutionz.

International cricket can take a cue from Cricket New Zealand’s media rights. India’s media rights syndication company Sporty Soluitonz has acquired the NZC rights for the sub-continent, excluding India. Since, the Indian cricket team did not travel to NZ during this period, NZC could to find a buyer for the Indian territory. In commercial terms, for an overseas cricket board media rights value from India shall remain ‘ZERO’ if India is not playing. The minimum broadcast commitment for non-India series becomes a burden, that will further have a negative impact on values arriving from the India series rights.

Not a very happy situation for the cricket boards. But the sooner they realize these changing equations, the happier they will stay in their commercial zones. Accepting reality is the essence for commercial planning and success.

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