Will PKL media rights auction see a fierce bidding war?

The consolidated rights at the base level will require a commitment of Rs 1100-1200 crore, according to a source

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Mar 16, 2021 10:49 AM
kabaddi

As the D-Day for the e-auction of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) media rights nears, speculation is rife about the names of the companies who would be interested in bidding for the property. As things stand today, Star India and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) are believed to be the frontrunners for the property.

Star and Sony are the only companies to have a strong presence in the sports broadcasting business. Among the other large broadcasters, Viacom18 and ZEEL don't have a presence in the sports broadcasting space as they are focused on expanding their core entertainment business.

ZEEL had exited the sports business in 2016 by selling Ten Sports Network to SPNI. There was a four-year non-compete clause between the two companies which is supposed to have ended in 2020. However, experts note that ZEEL is unlikely to mount a bid for PKL. Discovery Communications India also has a sports channel but it has not made not any significant moves in sports broadcasting since it lacks scale.

Viacom18 will only throw its hat in the ring if it is backed by Jio, the telecom arm of its promoter Reliance Industries. Pertinently, Jio had made an aggressive bid for the India cricket rights in 2018. The rights were ultimately won by Star India for Rs 6138.1 crore while Sony emerged as the runner-up with a bid of Rs 6118.59 crore.

According to a source, the consolidated PKL media rights at the base level will require a commitment of Rs 1100-1200 crore. This includes the base price of Rs 900 crore for the media rights besides investments in production.

Apart from Jio, digital players like Amazon and Facebook have also shown an appetite for acquiring sports properties and are believed to be evaluating PKL. Amazon Prime Video had last year mopped up New Zealand Cricket rights which were earlier held by Star India.

Likewise, Facebook made its first big acquisition for India by taking the LaLiga rights. However, the social media platform has announced that it will not renew LaLiga rights for India. Incidentally, Facebook had surprised everyone by placing a bid of Rs 3900 crore for the India digital rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Besides Amazon and Facebook, gaming companies like Dream Sports, the parent company of Dream11, are also expected to enter the ring. Dream Sports also owns and operates online sports destination FanCode.

The deadline for buying tender was March 12 while the clarification submission deadline is March17. Bid submission and evaluation will take place on April 2 while the e-auction will be held on April 5. Mashal Sports refused to divulge the details of tender buyers citing the confidentiality clause.

The media rights package is divided into four categories - Package A (Global Television Rights Rest of the World Digital Rights Sponsorship Rights On-air and On ground, Package B (India Digital Rights Mobile Activation Rights Inflight/On-Board Rights and Virtual Reality Rights), Package C (Gaming rights), and Package D (consolidated rights).

In a recent interview with Business Standard, media veteran and U Mumba owner Ronnie Screwvala had said that the teams will make sure that the media rights auction is transparent. Screwvala had also noted that a host of global and Indian companies are expected to bid for media rights.

According to a sports media expert, the biggest factor for the PKL media rights e-auction is whether Sony is comfortable enough to bid for a property that is owned by its rival Star India. The expert also said that PKL, unlike IPL, has not been a big success on digital compared to TV. PKL's main strength comes from its viewership in non-metro markets.

"PKL has so far done well on TV more than digital and that too in regional markets. Sony doesn't have those regional channels and Viacom18 and ZEEL don't have sports while they have regional channels. ZEEL's non-compete clause is over but will they take a Rs 1100-1200 crore punt at a base level since their priority is to maintain the stability of the company following the change in shareholding? Since PKL is not that big on digital it is not clear whether Amazon and Facebook will go all out for the property," the expert noted.

According to a senior executive from one of the large TV broadcasting companies, Star, Sony, and digital players like Jio, Facebook and Amazon would be keenly interested in PKL. The executive also said that PKL will help companies bolster their presence in tier-2 and tier-3 markets.

A TV broadcast executive said that Star and Sony seem to be the frontrunners as far as the rights are concerned. "Apart from Star if someone else can bid for PKL it is Sony as they have a strong sports offering. I don't think Viacom18 or ZEEL would have any kind of interest in PKL. For such properties, you get good value only when you have a bouquet offering," the executive said.

PKL is India's second most-viewed sports league with a consistent viewership of 1+ TVR. The league's consumption has shot up from 30 billion minutes in season 3 to 71 billion minutes in season 7. The cumulative reach has risen from 232 million in season 3 to 328 million in season 7.

There are 12 franchises in the league backed by respectable names in the corporate, sports, and entertainment world. Some of the big names include Bengal Warriors (Kishore Biyani), Dabang Delhi KC (Radha Kapoor), Gujarat Fortune Giants (Gautam Adani), Jaipur Pink Panthers (Abhishek Bachchan), Tamil Thalaivas (Sachin Tendulkar), and U Mumba (Ronnie Screwvala).

 (With inputs from Sonam Saini)

 

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