It’s a hat-trick

By bagging domestic cricket rights, Star India now has an iron grip over India’s biggest sport


Star India is now the undisputed king of Indian cricket broadcast. The Walt Disney Company-owned media behemoth pipped Sony Pictures Network and Reliance Jio Infocomm by retaining the television and digital broadcast of international and domestic cricket matches in the country for the next five years (2018-2023) by shelling out Rs.6,138 crore (about $950 million). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the world’s richest cricket board, had put the media rights up for sale using an e-auction — first time in its history.

Star now owns all the cricket properties in a nation where the sport unites like no other religion. The winning bid is 60% higher than the Rs.3,850 crore ($592 million) that Star had paid for the five-year rights ending March 2018. According to reports, the BCCI will get an average of Rs.60 crore per game against Rs.43 crore it got in the previous deal. Star will air 102 international matches over the five year period against 96 in the earlier deal.

Last year, Star had also paid a massive $2.55 billion (Rs.16,000 crore) for a five-year media rights of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament beginning 2018. From a viewership of over 100 million in 2008, the last year's edition of IPL garnered over 400 million viewers even as advertising revenue took off from Rs.400 crore to Rs.1,300 crore over the same period. Not surprising that Star was keen not to miss the bus, when the IPL rights, then owned by Sony, came up for grabs. Besides its stranglehold on Indian domestic cricket, Star also has the broadcast rights for the International Cricket Council's international tournaments from 2015-23, paying up $1.9 billion in 2014. The eight-year period contains 18 ICC tournaments, which include two World Cups in 2019 and 2023, Champions Trophy in 2021, and World T20s in 2020.

With one strike, Star India has ensured that none of its rivals, even the RIL-owned telecom giant, will be starved of high-octane content. The broadcaster’s ability to make tonnes of money will not only depend on whether advertisers will continue to pay top dollar but also how well the Indian cricket team plays. While the jury is still out on that, for now, Star has clean bowled its competition.