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IPL e-auction: Zee bats on its own

Zee re-enters sports broadcasting after six yrs, unlikely to bid along with Sony; Amazon not in fray; Much-hyped e-auction began on Sunday and likely to conclude by Monday evening

IPL e-auction: Zee bats on its own

Mumbai: Even as Zee re-enters sports broadcasting after six years it has made it clear that it would participate in IPL e-auction on its own. It simply means that Zee was unlikely to bid along with Sony, whereas Amazon has withdrawn itself from the biddings. The much-hyped e-auction began on Sunday and likely to conclude by Monday evening.

The IPL rights are estimated to fetch over $7 billion for next five years as estimated by BCCI from $5.9 billion in 2020, the organisers of the mega cricketainment. IPL is a multi-week tournament typically held in April and May every year. In 2017 Star India paid a record sum

of Rs16,347.5 crore ($ 2.55 billion) to bag the IPL rights for five years (2018-22).

Biddings are being held for four categories including broadcast rights, digital media rights, rest of the world broadcast rights and a newly introduced category of special media package for final and semi-finals.

Talking to Bizz Buzz, Harish Bijoor, a business and brand strategy expert, said: "Mergers are medium-term and drawn out processes. I guess Zee bids separate with purpose! In any case, the fittest bidders will survive this big IPL broadcast bid."

While Zee had not specified the deal size or tenure of the contract, industry sources had estimated the deal size to be around Rs800-900 crore for 10 years, given that the league is new.

"Zee Entertainment Enterprises (Zee) may bid for the upcoming media rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on its own", the company's MD and CEO Punit Goenka told analysts in a call, putting to rest speculation that it would do so along with Sony Pictures Networks India with whom it is merging.

Addressing investor queries, Goenka said the company had a strong balance sheet and could therefore go solo during the e-auction.

"We can participate in the IPL tender process on our own. We have a very healthy balance sheet. Certainly, we have the qualification to participate in the tender (process) on our own," he said.

Goenka's statement acquires significance as Zee has re-entered sports broadcasting after six years, announcing last week that it had picked up the global media rights for the UAE T20 League. The tournament, likely to happen this month, will air exclusively on Zee's television

channels and its over-the-top (OTT) platform ZEE5, in India and across the world. As far as the IPL media rights auction is concerned, Zee had picked up the bid documents for the 2023-27 media rights cycle along with a host of other companies including Disney-Star, Sony, Viacom18-Bodhi Tree, Amazon, Apple, Google, Dream11, Sky Sports UK, SuperSport SA and Times


Goenka told analysts that Zee could either put in a bid for a single category (such as digital or television rights) or could put in bids in all four categories as laid out by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in the tender document.

"The ITT (Invitation to Tender) does not preclude us from bidding for either part or all of the media rights. We are evaluating our options as to what is the best strategy for the company going forward," he said.

Goenka also said that the company was looking at various options on funding its bid for the IPL media rights. "We don't have to pay any money upfront. It is only when the rights start you have to pay for them. Till that time, there are instruments such as bank guarantees that are available. We are evaluating all options," Goenka told investors.

While bids are likely to be around 20-25 per cent higher than the current base price of Rs 33,000 crore, some media experts said it could touch Rs 50,000-60,000 crore on the auction day, depending on the appetite of bidders.

Dr Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, which is into media consultancy, said, "Everyone in the bidding game has their own compulsions, own calculations and own strategies. Everyone will try -solo, in combo, in consortia. All that eventually counts is your risk taking ability."

In another interesting development, Amazon is out of the fray this time. Apple and Google, according to informed sources, may focus on the digital rights. Attention, however, is shifting to the broadcasters Disney-Star, Sony and Viacom18-Bodhi Tree with regard to their strategies for the upcoming auction.

Analysts say that Viacom18-Bodhi Tree may be the most aggressive of the three networks, given the expertise that Uday Shankar, the former chairman of Star India and president of Walt Disney Asia Pacific, who is now the joint venture partner in Lupa Systems, an investment entity promoted by James Murdoch, brings to the table.

Bodhi Tree, which recently announced it was investing Rs 13,500 crore in Viacom18, along with Reliance Industries, is a platform promoted by Lupa Systems and Shankar.

Kumud Das
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