The ICC are about to find out how much their cricket is worth when they open offers for the Indian market from various broadcasters on Friday. At stake are the rights to broadcast ICC events – men and women – on television and digitally direct to the device of your choice for the next four or eight years. And given the enormous sums generated by bidding for the IPL, there is an expectation that the ICC could benefit from the big bucks at play.
Here’s what you need to know about the tender.
Why do I need to know anything about ICC rights at all when all I care about is who my team is playing next?
Because the money from these rights ultimately forms a chunk of the money that makes the rich (India, England and Australia) richer but keeps the game going in the smaller member countries. So if you care about it, you probably should care about it.
A whole series of events from 2023-31: 16 men’s events (over eight years between 2023-31) and six women’s events (over four years – between 2023-27). World Championships, Champions Trophy, T20 World Championships, U19 World Championships, you name it, every ICC event – men’s and women’s – you see through 2031 will be part of this deal.
Brought to me by?
As ESPNcricinfo understands, one or more from Disney Star*, Sony, Zee, Viacom and Amazon.
And do I watch it on my phone, TV or tablet?
Either, both, all. For the first time, the ICC unpacked its rights. A series of TV rights will no longer be sold to the highest bidder; It now sells its rights as separate packages of TV Only, Digital Only and TV and Digital Combined. All three are for four or eight years. If one of the packages is only sold for four years, the ICC will open another window to sell the rights for the second four-year period.
It sounds like bidding could get complicated.
That’s exactly what four of the main broadcasters in the race thought, and several emails were sent to the ICC about the lack of transparency in the process. And as a symbolic protest, they initially didn’t take part in some training sessions — or “mock auctions,” as they called them — to familiarize them with the process.
Disney Star, Zee, Sony and Viacom raised various concerns about the transparency of the bidding process. TL;DR: Broadcasters were unhappy with the fact that bids were not shared among bidders after the opening; that there was no clarity as to how close the highest bids had to be to trigger a second round of bidding; and they wanted to know more about how the ICC would assess an offer for a four-year contract versus an offer for an eight-year contract.
What happened next?
The four broadcasters eventually went ahead and made bids and, according to some reports, the desired clarity was given. For example, according to a report in the Indian timesbroadcasters were told that a bid falling within 10% of the winning/combination bid would trigger a second round of bidding – but this time via an e-auction (more on that shortly).
There was also some additional information on a pre-determined multiplier used to rank an eight-year offer versus a four-year offer. The ICC will look at the best offers for both terms and then look at the ratio between the two and compare this to the multiplier which is believed to be fixed at 2.8. If the ratio exceeds the multiplier for eight years, the ICC selects the winner for the eight-year offering. If the ratio is lower, the highest bid is selected for four years.
Here is an example. If the best four-year number is 100 and the best eight-year number is 270, the ratio is 2.7 (270/100). That’s below the multiplier of 2.8 set by the ICC. In this case, the ICC chooses the highest bidder for four years. But if the best four-year bid is 100 and the highest eight-year bid is 300, then the ratio of 3 means that the ICC selects the highest eight-year bid.
Only, as we say, if the second best bid is within 10% of the best bid; The first round of bidding is the old-school sealed bid method, which ICC says has worked best in years (some broadcasters wanted an e-auction from the start, following the success of the IPL). The ICC also argues that the unbundled nature of its rights offering means it is too complex for a simple electronic auction process. In fact, they initially ruled out an e-auction but have since backed out. The e-auction will take place a few days later if required.
Why did you go to the Indian market first?
In short: money. It is the largest market for cricket and as the IPL rights have shown there is a huge appetite for more cricket content from the biggest broadcasters there. With two different broadcasters – Disney Star and Viacom – winning the TV and digital rights, respectively, for the next five-year cycle of the IPL, the ICC is banking on the belief that both and other participants will bid aggressively to snag the second largest rights in cricket, that of the ICC.
This is also backed up by some simple math: by unbundling its rights package into men’s and women’s events, digital and TV, by venturing into different territories, they can make a lot more money than in previous cycles.
I’m not sure how it took so long to get to the core: how much money do they expect to make?
No one can be sure, but here are some facts. In the last cycle, the ICC sold its rights for just over $2 billion. But that was a different, linear world: this number applied to all rights on all platforms worldwide. The ICC is believed to be eyeing a benchmark number for this cycle, a “sought price” of $1.44 billion for a four-year deal and $4 billion (1.44 multiplied by 2.8) for an eight-year contract. That’s double the last deal in eight years, and it’s just a benchmark number – so the minimum they expect – and it is only for indian market.
Expectations have increased not only because of the way broadcasting and the digital landscape has changed since the last cycle, but also because there is more content. In the previous eight-year cycle there were six events for men, while in the next cycle there will be one event annually. Six of the eight events fall within the Indian time zone; India is hosting three men’s events; Four of the eight events in the next cycle will take place during the Diwali festival season when the Indian market is usually in a buying mood.
Separate women’s rights will help. There remains one element of development as the highest bid does not necessarily guarantee the winner. The ICC strives to find the right broadcast partner who can promote women’s cricket worldwide. The winning bidder(s) will make a presentation to the Media Rights Advisory Group (MRAG) specially formed to decide the bid to show how they plan to help women’s cricket grow and not only limited to the world events but the overall game.
*Disney Star and ESPNcricinfo are part of The Walt Disney Company.