Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India has acquired the broadcast and digital rights for all men's international matches organised by Australia's cricket board for the next six years. These rights, currently held by Star India, are for the Indian subcontinent.
The terms of the deal cover multiple Indian tours and visits by Pakistan, South Africa and the Ashes of 2021-22. The first tournament to be telecast by SPN will be the Magellan Ashes Series next month.
The deal gives Sony's cricket broadcast a much-needed boost since it lost out on the media rights, specifically the TV broadcast rights, to the Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this year. Star India swept the global media rights to the annual twenty-20 tournament with a composite bid of ~16,347.5 crore.
While Star India would want to retain its supremacy in cricket broadcast in India, SPN would need to add significant India-relevant matches to its line-up. Interestingly, the England Cricket Board rights, currently held by Star India, are also up for review in the coming month. In March 2018, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) media rights (currently with Star India) will also come up for review.
NP Singh, chief executive officer, SPN, said, "SPN is committed to redefining the sports broadcasting landscape in the Indian subcontinent by curating a multi-sport culture. Our sports network comprising of 11 channels will offer something for everyone. Cricket enjoys a high viewership in India and with the acquisition of the media rights of Cricket Australia, we are ensuring that the viewer has continuous cricketing action, all through the year."
While winning the rights adds weight to SPN's portfolio, experts are not sure whether it means a lot in terms of revenue. "Unlike the BCCI rights, where every series or tournament will involve India, the CA rights are relevant in terms of revenue only when India goes Down Under," said Indranil das Blah, partner and COO at CAA Kwan, a sports marketing and celebrity management firm.
Another factor will be the time difference between India and Australia. Most of the matches start in the wee hours of the morning and do not make it to prime time viewing or even normal office hours in India. This will affect the eyeballs that these matches get and hence may eventually have an impact on the advertising rates.
"Also, the India-Australia rivalry is not what it used to be around 10 years back. You have the controversies with Bhajji (Harbhajan Singh) and (Andrew) Symonds, and the war of wits between captains Sourav (Ganguly) and Steve (Waugh), which added to the excitement around ties between the two countries. Now it's not the same since the Australian side has changed and you see them walloped in the ongoing series. It's become just another series," added das Blah.
Separately, SPN has also acquired the media rights for women's international cricket played in Australia, beginning with the Commonwealth Bank Ashes later this month, along with the KFC BBL (Big Bash League) and the Rebel WBBL (Women's Big Bash League).
SPN will have extensive access to content from Cricket Australia's archives and some original programming from the newly-created CA Productions team.