Times Internet is launching GoCricket, a website that it says will provide Cricket reportage and allow visitors to watch matches live on the website. According to placeholders in place right now at GoCricket.com, the website will provide first hand reportage of the ICC World Twenty20 cup from Bangladesh, allow visitors to follow their favorite team in a new way, have a dynamic Cricket scorecard, and provide analysis of the state of Cricket. In addition, it will allow visitors to watch Cricket on the phone, tablet or the desktop.
This launch comes at a very interesting time in Cricket, at least when it comes to digital rights and rights of access:
1. Scorecard: The website is launching with scorecard online at a time when court cases by STAR and Multi Screen Media are claiming ownership of Cricket rights. More on that issue here. In case of the 2014 edition of the IPL, Times Internet has rights, but if either STAR or MSM win their cases, it means that Times Internet might have to pay a license fee to incorporate a dynamic scorecard on their website in the future, as well as pay for ball-by-ball commentary.
2. Reportage while other online publications might not be allowed: Times Internet has the advantage of being – rather, being affiliated with – a mainstream media publication. Remember that the BCCI/IPL is trying to prevent access to journalists, and many online publications don’t even get access to Cricket grounds today. Some context here, of what happened last year. This is not a new issue, and first came into the limelight when the IPL tried to impose restrictions on online publications, back in 2008.
3. Live streaming, when Times Internet’s rights are about to end: This is the last IPL that Times Internet will have the rights to, and there will be a fresh auction by the BCCI. Goes the launch of a new portal indicate that Times Internet will bid again for these rights? A consortium led by Times Internet had acquired the global rights to the Indian Premier League for Internet, Mobile, Radio and Television (for certain territories) for 2011-2014 (4 years), with a bid of Rs 261.6 crore for term: From what we’ve heard, the TV rights for certain territories were for around Rs 100 crore, which means Times Internet would have to earn around Rs 40.4 crore per year.
4. Times Internet and STAR: It’s an interesting relationship between STAR and Times Internet. This year, they’re working together – Times Internet has licensed online streaming for the IPL to STAR, which is using Cricket online to promote StarSports.com. This reminds us of Times Internet using Cricket rights to promote BoxTV in the past, and currently, for launching GoCricket. However, you have to see this in the context of the court cases STAR has filed, and the investment STAR is making in Cricket: from buying BCCI rights to sponsoring the Indian Cricket Team. Expect STAR to bid for IPL rights in the next auction.
We’re more interested in seeing how Times Internet will approach Cricket differently with this portal, from a content perspective: Cricinfo was the leading online Cricket publication for years, before Cricbuzz came up, especially after an integration with Google for showing scores on search. Web18 owned CricketNext appears to have faded away, after it was integrated into IBNLive, as a part of Web18’s incoherent web strategy.