Ambani’s Viacom 18 Acquires Indian Cricket Media Rights for a Cool $721 Million: A Strategic Power Play in the Business of Cricket

mukesh ambanis viacom 18 acquires indian cricket media rights

In a masterstroke of business acumen, Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd, backed by business magnate Mukesh Ambani in collaboration with Paramount Global, has claimed the five-year media rights for India’s premier cricket team’s home matches. This strategic move fortifies Ambani’s stronghold over the broadcasting of India’s most-watched sport.

Mumbai’s media giant, Viacom 18, will now have the dual privilege of TV broadcasting and digital streaming of India’s bilateral series against competing nations. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), through its honorary secretary Jay Shah, made this public on a recent Thursday.

As per insider sources in The Economic Times, the deal cost Viacom 18 a substantial Rs 59.66 billion ($721 million). Interestingly, this figure closely mirrors the bidding price from the preceding auction, albeit being slightly lower than the anticipated $750 million, as hinted by Bloomberg News. While Viacom 18 remains tight-lipped, with no immediate comments, the market is abuzz with speculations.

Ambani’s triumph in the bidding arena signifies his deepening influence in India’s cricket broadcasting spectrum. This comes on the heels of last year’s acquisition of the five-year digital rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) from Walt Disney Co. Notably, the rights for IPL, a game-changer in cricket’s short-format, rocketed to approximately $6 billion, underscoring the sky-high viewer demand for this quick-paced format.

The recent auction, originally scheduled for an earlier date, was deferred to pique the interest of global media heavyweights like Inc. and Alphabet Inc., especially after the mixed reactions post the IPL rights sale. The tepid reaction underscored the challenges of monetizing cricket broadcasts outside of the IPL, primarily due to fluctuating ad revenues.

Ambani, during his recent annual shareholders’ meet, lauded the “revolutionary” impact of Viacom’s JioCinema platform, which is partially free-to-stream. He highlighted that the platform witnessed a surge with hundreds of millions tuning in for the IPL. Ambani noted, “The IPL viewership saw a paradigm shift with more digital device consumers than traditional TV audiences.”

Meanwhile, with the digital realm gaining momentum, Disney is re-evaluating its broadcast strategy for IPL in India. Possibilities include a complete sale or forming a joint venture to navigate the escalating competitive landscape.

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