BCCI: IPL media rights’ base price needs a reality check: NP Singh of Sony Pictures

NP Singh, managing director and CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), has raised serious concerns over the reserve price of Rs 32,890 crore set by the cricket board for media rights of Indian Premier League (IPL) for the 2023-27 period.

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) needs to be realistic, given the fact that IPL has recorded a massive drop in the viewership this season, Singh said.

The proposed base price is more than double of what existing rights holder Star India paid for current five-year cycle at Rs 16,347.5 crore.

“It’s a very aggressive reserve price and there has to be a reality check as TV viewership of IPL has dropped by over 34%, and at a time when the rights are coming up for renewal,” Singh told ET.

“The outlay expected, given the reserve price, is very high and we will have to factor in the expected growth of the market as well as possible economic and other risks that the market may see in the next five years,” he said. “So, we will weigh everything before we decide on what to do.”

BCCI had announced release of its invitation to tender (ITT) for IPL media rights last month.

This time, the board has divided digital rights into two separate packages. One for all matches, and second for 18 matches on a non-exclusive basis, which include the opening match, playoffs, and all the evening games on Sundays.

The splitting of digital rights hasn’t gone down well with broadcasters like SPN.

“We would have preferred exclusivity of linear and digital both, without these non-exclusive 18 games,” Singh said.

SPN is one of the contenders for the IPL media rights along with Disney Star, Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE), Viacom18/ TV18, Amazon, and Fancode/ Dream11.

Incidentally, it was SPN which had taken a big punt on the IPL initially, bidding over Rs 8,000 crore for 10 years, when it had no takers.

When rights came up for renewal in 2017, SPN bid over Rs 11,000 crore for the TV rights only while not bidding for digital or combined rights.

It eventually lost to Star India.

When asked how aggressive SPN will go this time with a pack of competitors with deep pockets, Singh said, “We are a serious sports broadcaster, and we will continue to evaluate every opportunity with an objective to acquire. But, with a view of making decent margins, rather than losing money.”

SPN’s current sports rights portfolio includes UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa, Bundesliga and FA Cup in football, Asian Games, WWE, French Open, UFC, Prime Volleyball, and Ultimate Kho Kho, as well as Cricket Australia, England and Wales Cricket Board, Pakistan Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket among others.

“We are in the business of generating reasonable returns to the shareholders and all our rights acquisition go through stringent evaluation processes,” Singh said. “That’s why we are the most profitable sports broadcaster.”