IPL Becomes Fastest-Growing Sports Property

Dan Meier 26 March, 2024 

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been identified as the world’s fastest-growing major sports property by Omdia, as the cricket league’s media rights continue their fast-paced upswing.

According to the research firm’s report, ‘Why 2024 could prove to be a high-water mark for the Indian Premier League’, the IPL’s latest five-year contract that commenced in 2023 is worth $1.2 billion per year. This means the rights have more than doubled in value since 2018, when Disney paid $2.55 billion for the full five years.

Omdia calculates that IPL rights are worth $16 million per game, higher than the average $15.7 million for a Premier League football match. But the report notes that the IPL does not have the Premier League’s international reach, although its owners are in talks to set up T20 franchises in the Middle East, South Africa and the US.

“This contradiction draws attention to the IPL’s journey ahead to become a global sports league, extending beyond its regional stronghold,” said the report. “In order to close this gap and establish itself alongside the EPL in the worldwide sports arena, it is essential for the IPL to focus its strategy on growing its global viewership and improving its international appeal.”

A league of their own

The value of the IPL rights has placed them at the seam of the recent battle between Disney and Network18 owner Reliance Industries, who agreed a landmark merger last month. Omdia notes that the Disney/Reliance deal is expected to close in 2025, and the combined entity will likely have control of around 40 percent of the total advertising market.

Without competition in the field, owning the digital and linear TV rights will enable the company to raise ad prices around the IPL. There are also more games scheduled in 2024 compared with 2023, creating even higher revenue potential.

“The IPL is poised to monetize these massive rights costs through advertising and sponsorship, rather than subscription revenue,” said the report. “The position of the IPL at the forefront of India’s current advertising innovation market remains intact and there are signs that 2024 will be a record year for advertising around the event, with greater market confidence than in 2023 across India’s commercial landscape, and with broadcasters announcing more new ways to drive revenue.”

A two-paced pitch

The battle between the two media giants began when Disney acquired Star India from Fox for $71 billion in 2019, and with it the hotly contested IPL rights. The company introduced a cricket subscription on its Hotstar streaming service in 2020, but was caught out in 2022 when Disney lost the IPL streaming rights to Viacom18, co-owned by Reliance and Paramount. Disney retained the TV rights, with both companies paying around $3 billion for their respective packages.

But with Viacom18 streaming the IPL games for free, Hotstar lost over one-third of its subscribers in nine months. Disney also had to remove its HBO slate from Hotstar as the entertainment giant became unable to stump up the cost to retain the titles, which Reliance promptly acquired.

With its Indian unit losing revenues, content and subscribers, Disney sought to sell the business. Last month it was announced that Viacom18 would take a 60 percent stake in Disney’s Indian operations. The agreement values Disney Star at $3.9 billion, a substantial write-down from the $71 billion Disney paid in 2019.

And last week, Reliance announced plans to buy out Paramount’s stake in Viacom18 for $517 million. The deal increases Reliance’s stake in Viacom18 to 70.49 percent.

 “The IPL has emerged as a pivotal factor in the recent merger between Disney and Reliance, alongside Paramount’s decision to divest its stake in Viacom18,” said Daoud Jackson, Senior Analyst for Media and Entertainment at Omdia. “This development underscores the IPL’s towering influence on media consolidation and its burgeoning role in shaping the future of sports broadcasting and advertising in India.”

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