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MUMBAI: US media behemoth Walt Disney and Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries were the major winners in a high-stakes bid to broadcast the IPL, the world’s richest cricket league, for the next five years in deals fetching the organisers $6.2 billion.

Disney-owned Star India retained the television broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League for 235.75 billion Indian rupees ($3.02 billion), Jay Shah, a top cricket board official said on Tuesday, after a three-day online auction saw the league’s broadcast value triple from the last one in 2017.

At $3.02 billion, Disney will pay more than a billion dollars more than its previous bid in 2017, which also included online streaming rights.

Viacom 18, a broadcasting joint venture run by Reliance Industries, won digital streaming rights from 2023 to 2027, for 237.58 billion Indian rupees ($3.05 billion).

The BCCI received a total of 483.9 billion Indian rupees ($6.20 billion) from the media rights for the five-year period, BCCI secretary Shah said in a series of tweets.

“IPL is now the 2nd most valued sporting league in the world in terms of per match value,” he tweeted.

Media giants in pitch battle for India cricket rights

Disney’s Hotstar Plus platform, which has so far streamed the IPL, is the market leader in India’s crowded online streaming market, with more than 50 million paid subscribers, which analysts attribute mostly to its strong cricket content.

Long-term value

“We made disciplined bids with a focus on long-term value. We chose not to proceed with the digital rights given the price required to secure that package,” Rebecca Campbell, Chairman, International Content and Operations at Walt Disney, said in a statement on Tuesday.

But analysts say the lack of cricket in its arsenal could hurt Disney’s position as the market leader and arm Reliance with a potent weapon to capture the Indian streaming market in the next five years.

“The fact that digital rights value is higher than television showcases the scale and future potential of streaming in India,” Mihir Shah, Vice President at consultants Media Partners Asia, said.

Others in the race included Sony Corp’s India unit and local broadcaster Zee Entertainment, both of whom are in the middle of a proposed merger.

“We had to factor in the market’s anticipated expansion and potential economic and other concerns over the next five years. Fiscal prudence, in my opinion, is critical for strategic management,” N P Singh, Managing Director and CEO Sony Pictures Networks India, said in a statement.

Bidding for the media rights began on Sunday.

The IPL, counting top Indian industrialists and Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan among its franchise owners, is often seen as a surefire ticket to high TV ratings and growth in India’s booming online streaming space.

The glitzy T20 league attracts the world’s best cricketers for two months of fast-paced matches played in front of packed stadiums.

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