Amazon & Reliance to fight over cricket media rights in India

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Amazon’s feud with Reliance Industries, India’s largest oil-to-retail behemoth, appears to be spilling over onto the cricket field, where the two companies will likely compete for telecast rights to the country’s most popular cricket tournament, which draws hundreds of millions of spectators.

According to sources familiar with the companies’ plans, Amazon.com Inc and Reliance Industries Ltd are expected to compete with Sony Group Corp and Walt Disney Co’s India units for exclusive five-year TV and digital broadcast rights to the two-month series of matches, which could cost a record 500 billion rupees ($6.7 billion).

“Cricket is the world’s second-largest sport, and the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the Super Bowl of cricket,” said Anton Rublievskyi, CEO of Parimatch, a betting company that promoted at the IPL last year.

The digital and television rights were purchased for 163.48 billion rupees by Disney-owned Star India, which, together with Sony and its planned acquisition Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, is one of India’s largest broadcasters. The league’s games received 350 million viewers throughout the first half of the 2021 season.

Traditional media companies, on the other hand, face deep-pocketed competitors such as Reliance Industries, India’s largest retailer, and Amazon, two billionaire-led behemoths vying for a piece of the fast-growing e-commerce pie while developing their digital platforms.

Future Group, a major Indian retailer, is already embroiled in a legal struggle between Amazon and Reliance Industries.

The insider continued, “Everything that has transpired at Viacom18 in the last few months has been leading up to this,” mentioning the purchase of La Liga rights and the launch of a sports channel as examples.

Requests for comment from Reliance and Viacom18 were not returned.

According to another industry source acquainted with Amazon’s thinking, the company wants to acquire the IPL rights to increase the platform’s user base. Cricket matches are now being streamed live on Amazon’s Prime Video platform.

In 2017, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) awarded the tender to Star for a consolidated TV and digital bid that outbid all other bids.

Industry sources expect the BCCI to be flexible given the possibility of huge payments from bidders, including a deep-pocketed digital-only operator like Amazon.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah told Reuters that the board had looked at several models and offers, but he declined to comment on specifics or the possible cash value of the bids.

Although Disney India did not respond to a request for comment from the media behemoths, Disney CEO Bob Chapek stated during a recent earnings teleconference that the company was confident in attaining its subscriber targets in India even without IPL rights.

Others in the industry, on the other hand, are asking if the sharp increase in the cost of the rights is sustainable. The IPL has grown to the point where it is too big to fail, therefore everyone in the ecosystem is supporting it.

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