Cricket is not just a sport, but a global competition

In the context of a trade struggle, a well-presented superleague is facing streaming companies and billionaires like Bezos and Ambani for party broadcasting rights.

Cricket has ignited global commercial competition. In addition to established companies such as Walt Disney and Sony, the dispute involves two of the richest and most influential men on the planet, the Indian Mukesh Ambani (the richest man in Asia) and the very American Jeff Bezos. But why all this interest in cricket? The reason is that the auction for the allocation of broadcasting rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL), the main Indian cricket championship, began on Sunday. For the first time, the rights, valid for the period 2023-2027, will be allocated separately between television and streaming. The division attracted new investors and raised prices: organizers received only the opening day total bids of nearly $ 6 billionexceeding initial expectations of 5 billion.

Auction participants want to earn lucrative advertising revenue from one of the world’s most-watched sporting events. The first match of the IPL 2020 Championship was watched, on television alone, for more than 200 million of the people. In comparison, the NFL loves it Superbowl 2022 – the final of the American football championship, traditionally the most watched annual sporting event – has been seen in the US for about 110 million of people, the maximum in the last 5 years. Bezos, however, also wants the rights because the broadcast of the 74 league matches on Prime Video would consolidate Amazon into India’s growing digital and e-commerce sector. “Cricket is certainly a profitable business and also a cultural tool to create harmony with the Indian public: it allows you to get two birds with one stone,” says Al Foglio Souvik Naha, a professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom. where it deals with the link between sport, history and society. Therefore, cricket is a valuable tool for corporate growth for Bezos, which through Prime Video already broadcasts American football in the US and football in Europe.

Bezos does not like Bezos’ intentions, which owns both the JioTV streaming service and the JioMart e-commerce platform, fears the growth of its competitor Amazon through the sports broadcast carrier. Little known in the West, Ambani is very rich and powerful: It has an estimated value of $ 100 billion and is closely linked to Indian politics. He owns Reliance Industries, a petrochemical company started by his father, which has expanded into an industrial conglomerate by investing in finance and digital. One of its most prominent companies is Jio, a telecommunications company that in a few years and with large investments has endowed India with a very extensive and powerful internet network. Thanks also to very advantageous rates, it is today the telephone company with the most users in India: almost half a million. Ambani is also the owner of the IPL’s Bombay team.

Despite the hidden motives of Ambani and Bezos, which according to some recent rumors from Bloomberg could withdraw from the auction without any bid, the IPL broadcast is in any case a commercial success as evidenced by the growth in the cost of television rights. In 2008 Sony bought it for 10 years for $ 1 billion. Star, Murdoch TV, paid 2.6 billion for the next 5-year contract surpassing Facebook, which offered $ 600 million for digital rights alone – it’s too early to split television and the Internet, they said from the IPL. So far, Facebook could also participate in the auction because of the link to Ambani, which two years ago sold 10 percent of Jio to Facebook for $ 5.7 billion.

The Indian Premier League proves that super leagues can be converted effective means of profit, although the interpretation of sports support, the historicity of sports teams and institutions are not comparable between Europe and India. The League, in which the “franchises” face off several times, was created in 2008 with great growth goals and is now worth between $ 5,000 and $ 6 billion, despite internal disputes and problems on the part of match arrangement. The commercial and political power of the championship is such that the organizers, with the consent of the Indian national authorities, were able to move all the teams to the UAE to conclude both championships interrupted by the pandemic.

“The league,” says Souvik Naha, “is run by very smart people in the company, who have taken advantage of the sport’s growth potential by adapting its needs and marketing.” Until now, the benefits of television rights were behind us, but the new sales structure will further raise the financial profile of the league. To maximize the interest of television, the duration of the matches was shortened to four hours and the season is played in a compressed way between March and May. This year the teams increased from 8 to 10. The two new clubs were bought for 745 million and 945 million dollars respectively – values ​​higher than those of many European football clubs. Super League football fans they were inspired by the American modelbut the IPL is an equally good example for taking notes.

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