The Disney Star-Zee ICC media rights deal explained

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After winning the rights to broadcast and stream the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) global events in India until the end of 2027 on Saturday, Disney Star on Tuesday licensed the TV broadcasting rights of the men’s and under-19 events to Zee. Disney Star retained the rights to stream the matches on its video streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar.

Industry analysts are surprised by this strategic alliance between Disney Star and Zee. ICC is said to have earned a whopping $3 billion from the sale of rights to Disney Star. As per industry watchers, Disney Star bid to win and found itself paying a high price for the media rights. In comparison, Star Sports had won media rights for the last eight years (2015-2023) for about $2 billion. According to persons in the know, the second highest bid for the ICC media rights was about $1.4 billion. This bid was made by Sony.

“While the partnership allows Disney to reduce the exorbitant burden of rights cost, it will also have to compete with Zee for the same ad and subscription dollars,” says Mihir Shah, vice president, Media Partners Asia.

The overall value of the media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) for 2023-2027 is about $6 billion. The split between Disney Star and Viacom18 for television and digital rights is almost 49-51. The final value of the TV rights was Rs 23,575 crore while Viacom18 bid a total of Rs 23,758 crore.

While the exact details of the Disney Star-Zee deal are not known, a senior media industry executive who suspects the deal was agreed upon before the bid was won expects the digital rights holder to bear the larger chunk of the cost of the ICC media rights.

Elara Capital estimates that Zee has paid approximately Rs 53 crore per match for the marquee tournaments – Champions trophy, World Cup and World Cup T20. At that rate, the acquisition price is 5% lower than IPL’s TV rights (Rs 57 crore per match).

TV rights can be monetised better than digital but the numbers don’t necessarily work in favour of Zee. The monetisation potential of ICC’s matches is less than that of IPL, feel analysts. “Only one marquee cricket tournament happens every year and the time frame is limited for some of them (3 weeks sometimes) whereas IPL goes on for two months and may increase with more matches,” says Karan Taurani, SVP, Elara Capital.

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