$12 million per game: IPL becomes the second largest sports league

On the eve of the e-auction for the five-year Indian Premier League (IPL) media rights, the Indian Cricket Board is optimistic: currently ranked 4th behind the National Football League (NFL), English Premier League (EPL) and Major League Baseball ( MLB), the board expects IPL to jump to second place in terms of “transfer fees per game.”

Unfazed by e-commerce giant Amazon’s late withdrawal from the high-profile race, which still includes legacy sports broadcasters Disney Star, Sony, Zee and newcomer Viacom-Reliance, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Secretary Jay Shah said that even if the rights went at base price, the rating of the biggest cricket tournament would have taken a giant leap.

“Currently, a National Football League game costs a broadcaster about $17 million, the highest for any sports league. Next up is the English Premier League at $11 million, and Major League Baseball’s figure is also about the same. In the last five year cycle, we got $9 million from an IPL game. This time BCCI will receive $12 million per IPL match based on the current minimum base price we have set. This is a giant leap for Indian cricket on the world stage. We’re going to be just behind the NFL,” Shah told The Indian Express, citing a BCCI study of global sports leagues.

The final of the IPL 2022 took place at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. (Twitter/Indian Premier League)

For the BCCI, this is the second unexpected windfall in a row in its five-year cycle. In 2017, all of the IPL rights went to Star India for around $3 billion, a then-unheard-of amount for a cricket deal.

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With IPL now a 10-team tournament and the duration of the league expected to be further extended, the 2023-27 media rights deal is expected to break new ground.

An early indicator of Brand IPL’s growth despite the pandemic doldrums was the sale of two new teams earlier this year: BCCI earned a total of $1.7 billion, with the Lucknow franchise grossing 250 percent above base price.

According to Shah, the BCCI has opted for an e-auction for “better price discovery.” Through this process, bidders follow the auction online, with each bid displayed simultaneously on their screens. Only after a winner has been determined will the name of the bidder be revealed. “It also keeps the process transparent,” Shah said.

The media rights are divided into four categories this time: Package A: TV from the Indian subcontinent; Package B: Digital Space; Package C: Special bouquet of essential matches; Package D: Overseas Rights.

The special bouquet, which includes weekend games, playoffs and the finals, is expected to undermine the exclusivity of Package A and B. Shah said this was done so IPL would have more broadcast partners.

“If we had done it conventionally, we would only have had a limited number of participants. We introduced Package C because we wanted a lot of players to participate in the bidding process. That’s helping cricket grow, we need to expand the game and that’s going to help. If there are more players in the fight, it’s good for the game,” he said. Citing the NFL’s example, he said, “They have seven broadcast partners, we only look at three or four.”

With Reliance’s Voot, Disney’s Hotstar, and Zee’s and Sony’s OTT platforms already engaged in an intense battle for viewership, the level of digital rights could even surpass TV offerings this time around.

Shah is aware of this. “By 2024, India will have 900 million internet users. Because of this, digital rights are becoming very important for the growth of cricket,” he said.

As IPL is not a year-long affair, the league’s total transfer deal value is far less than the other leading esports leagues. The $43 billion NFL and $23 billion NBA are head and shoulders above the rest.

“We are committed to the ICC FTP (Future Tours Programme). Indian cricket team is our main responsibility. Away matches generate income for other cricket nations. We have a responsibility to grow the game around the world,” Shah said.

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