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Lalit K Modi

IPL Media rights could touch US$10 billion

Over the last 15 years, if there is one event that India and cricket fans across the globe keenly look forward to, it has got to be the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Even before Make In India was introduced by our respected PM, IPL was our biggest export to the rest of the world after yoga and spirituality. We have now achieved something that many others just dream of. It is an annual event, which is keenly followed. Some rivalries and contests are the highlights which help make the league what it is.

Several lives have been improved by the league. A cricket economy helping close to 1000 plus families has emerged and survived the worst economic recession and a global pandemic. It is now therefore rated as the third biggest sports entertainment product globally. Could we have imagined this would have happened when we launched the league in 2007?

Yes, we did. As the proud father of this baby, I sit far away from the contests watching with a lot of pride as it grows into a gigantic product. It is truly a proud moment because I have seen what we planned in 2007 grow into something massive.

When we conceived the idea back in 2007, there were a lot of naysayers. Will this work? Why would companies own teams? What about the auction? Isn’t it immoral? We had all these questions thrown at us right at the start. But we knew just what we were aiming for. We had a lot of friends to thank for believing in our product.

Today those very people have grown into massive cricket business houses investing in leagues worldwide, like what we have with Knight Riders! There are others also, like the GMR and Reliance, who are keen to diversify into other leagues. It is all due to the success of the IPL that these companies have the belief in expanding their vision and growing in other territories. But nothing will be bigger than their IPL investment, ever!

These team owners deserve all the kudos. Then there are the commercial partners who have grown manifold in the past few years. If you look at the IPL commercial partners, you indicate the prevailing trend. The current trend in the world is all the tech-based apps that simplify your daily lives. But in the IPL, they are multiplying the finances for all. The support from these fintech companies is an indication that the economy around the world has changed and the IPL has been quick to embrace it.

If you thought that this was a new trend, nope, think again. We were ahead of the world not just in launching the league back in 2007 but also in envisaging the way broadcast of the league would happen.

Back in 2010, when I travelled to the US with my core group, little did anyone know then about just what I was planning. We went to the Google office and came back with a win-win deal. The first-ever cricket live streaming happened on YouTube in 2010, with a dedicated fun feed. This fun feed provided behind-the-scenes content that was not visible on TV. This was a landmark moment for the coverage of the IPL and that too in its third year. If I had carried on, we would have come up with more innovations. We would not have had to wait 12 years for Google to pick up ITT for broadcast starting from the 2023 season.

Of course, better late than never because IPL on YouTube was a moment to savor, which we all enjoyed being a part of. That YouTube arrangement was just one of the innovations we attempted and succeeded in.

The television deal with Sony Entertainment Television was also a massive achievement. Of course, Star quadrupled the agreement in 2018. As we are at the cusp of another new media rights deal, the world is running out of fingers to count the numbers in store.

Everybody is throwing numbers on the table. But if you have to listen or believe in one number, then it is from yours truly. I predict that this new IPL media rights tender will fetch close to 8 to 10 billion dollars. I believe this is the value of a genuinely global and world-class product.

I am confident that this value will match the fun on the field with several close contests and a lot richer talent bursting through with their performances.

The 2022 season has already provided us with so much joy with young fast bowling talent. Imagine this was possible in the first entire season with 10 sides. What could be the case with all teams playing each other twice? That would double the excitement and is the reason for my optimistic assessment of the increased value of media rights.

The explosion in the digital space, which we first explored briefly back in 2010, is now a reality. Every life is dictated by the mobile phone and IPL will be no different. Linear TV is still very much the lifeline for an Indian audience. So that is going nowhere. Now add the digital boom and the strength of Linear TV, and we have close to 10 billion dollars!

When the veil is lifted on the winner next month, please remember who told you first about the value of the rights. Then, I will be ready to raise a toast to the winning party and will doff my hat to the paying public. These two sets of people have helped make my vision durable.

Without them, IPL, cricket and I would have been nowhere. So now, go on, enjoy the rest of IPL 2022 and remember my words while you watch the action.

Lalit Kumar Modi


Follow my thoughts on IPL 2022 through my Twitter account @lalitkmodi and Insta account @lalitkmodi 

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