Star India has retained the television broadcast and digital rights for all International and domestic cricket played in India for the next five years at a whopping Rs6,138.1 crore ($944 million), outbidding rivals such as Sony Pictures Networks India and Reliance Jio. The current bid value is significantly higher than Star TV’s record 2012 bid of Rs3,851 crore ($750 million at that time).
The winner of the broadcast rights was determined by an e-auction, a first ever in the world of sports, that stretched over three days. During the auction, three companies—Sony, Star and Reliance Jio—were decided to bid for the global consolidated rights (GCR) for the 2018-23 cycle of India’s home bilateral series. Previously all broadcast rights were sold through a closed bid where participants would get one chance to submit a sealed bid, the highest bidder would then be declared the winner. In the e-auction, all bidder got to make incremental bids in an allotted amount of time. Bidders could drop out at any point, this continued until one bidder remained. Cricinfo has a detailed explainer on the e-auction process.
This win effectively establishes Star India’s monopoly over all cricket media rights in India, including the Indian Premier League (IPL) which it won for Rs 16,347.50 crore (around $2.55 billion) in September 2017.
Star India, which the Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, already has TV rights to all tournaments organized by the International Cricket Council, including the Cricket World Cup, as well as all matches of the Asia Cricket Council from 2016 to 2023.
Hotstar holds all the cards now
This is a big win for Star, and for its streaming service Hotstar. Most of Hotstar’s traffic comes from its sports streams, and it has seen this number grow steadily over the last three years where the company had the rights to the IPL. Now that it owns the consolidated rights to Indian cricket, IPL and ICC tournaments (World Cup, World T20, etc) the platform will be a will be able to carry live cricket for most of the year. The acquisition of the IPL consolidated rights will allow Hotstar to broadcast a live feed of the tournament, not a 5 minute delayed one as it did previously.
It is important to note that almost all live sports content on Hotstar is now behind a paywall. Hotstar had earlier this week announced a subscription tier just for viewing for live sports programmes. As part of the offer, Hotstar will include cricket (IPL 2018, Asia Cup 2018), football (Premier League, Bundesliga, I-League, Indian Super League, AFC Cup), tennis (Wimbledon, French Open, US Open), kabaddi (Pro Kabaddi, Kabaddi Nationals), and others (Formula 1, Badminton World Championships) for an annual fee of Rs 299. It is unclear if the Indian international cricket matches will be offered as part of this tier, while that is the likeliest move Star could also choose to offer that as part of a pricier tier.
Further, the streaming platform has partnered Airtel and Jio to provide the IPL live feed free. Non-Airtel and Jio customers will be able to see 10 minutes of live IPL free only. It remains unclear if ads will still be shown now that the sports offering is subscription-based. But we wouldn’t be betting against it, considering the steep broadcast fees that Star has decided to pay.