After a four-way battle to bag the rights to air global cricket, incumbent Disney Star acquired the rights for airing both men and women’s global events from 2023-24. The International Cricket Council (ICC) made the announcement on Saturday after the bidding process concluded in a single round on Friday.
While ICC did not disclose the exact value of the winning bid, experts believe that the rights to air global cricket in India would fetch the Council an auction purse of $4 billion. In the last cycle, ICC sold the cricketing rights to Disney Star for just over $2 billion.
This win comes to Disney Star after losing digital rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) to Reliance-backed Viacom18. Disney Star now has the rights to air IPL on linear TV as well as ICC rights, for the next four years— the next challenge to Disney Star’s monopoly in sports content will come with the auction of BCCI matches, which will also happen this year.
ICC Chair Greg Barclay said: “We are delighted to continue to partner with Disney Star as the home of ICC cricket for the next four years which has delivered an outstanding result for our members and will support our ambitious growth plans. They will play a crucial role in the future of our sport and connecting and engaging with more fans than ever before.
K Madhavan, Country Manager & President, Disney Star, said: “We are delighted at being able to continue our association with the International Cricket Council and look forward to strengthening our partnership by growing the sport of cricket in the years ahead.
“The decision followed a robust tender, bidding and evaluation process, which started in June,” noted ICC while announcing the winner, who will air global cricket matches in the India region. ICC is conducting the auctions to air its cricket content region by region for this auction cycle.
The four participants seeking to acquire media rights in these auctions were Disney Star, Reliance-backed Viacom18, Zee and Sony Sports. Certain reports indicate that the bid differential between the first and the second highest bidders was 10 per cent in the final bids.
The auction also saw some last-minute controversy as PricewaterhouseCoopers, withdrew from auditing the auction process. The top two broadcasters, Disney Star and Viacom18, renewed their demand for an E-auction on Friday, and the submission of the final bids was delayed. Since the announcement of the tender, Indian broadcasters had been seeking an E-auction, to make the bidding process as transparent as possible.
While Disney Star was able to retain media rights for ICC matches, the outcome of IPL media rights auctions from a few months ago clearly indicate that Disney Star’s incumbency as a market leader will be challenged. Sport is a prime move driving viewership and subscription in India’s broadcasting industry. In sports, cricket is the content which dominates the market. With Jio’s strong digital business as well as the rights to IPL, India’s most watched sporting event- Disney Star will have to work harder to maintain supremacy in both linear and the OTT space.