Reliance, Amazon Set To Fight For IPL Broadcasting Rights

June 10, 2022 08:06 AM

Reliance, Amazon Set To Fight For IPL Broadcasting Rights

MUMBAI - Jeff Bezos and Mukesh Ambani, two of the world’s richest men, are set to clash over media rights to the Super Bowl of cricket, one of the world’s fastest-growing sporting events that draws 600 million viewers and has a brand value of almost $6 billion.

The billionaires’ companies are expected to be the top two contenders at a June 12 Indian Premier League auction, which is likely to lure several bidders for separate, five-year telecasting and online streaming contracts in different geographies. The tycoons are preparing aggressive game plans to ensure a win, according to people familiar with the matter. Other fierce competitors include Walt Disney Co., which held the rights until this year’s just-concluded season, and Sony Group Corp.

For the two first-time participants, there’s far more at stake than just a shot at becoming the No. 1 media player in a country of 1.4 billion people. The English sport enjoys cult-like status in the former British colony. Both Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. and Bezos’s Inc. are betting the game will serve as a gateway to dominating an Indian consumer market that’s increasingly going online.

Starting mid-2021, Ambani, 65, has been identifying and hiring veteran executives for the job, people familiar with the matter said. They include Anil Jayaraj and Gulshan Verma, who helped 21st Century Fox Inc. clinch the previous deal in 2017.

Reliance’s war room also comprises Ambani’s trusted lieutenant Manoj Modi and older son Akash Ambani, people familiar with the developments said. A recent alliance forged with Uday Shankar, a former head of Fox’s and later Disney’s India and Asia Pacific operations, will also add heft to the team.

Amazon, which has identified IPL among a half-dozen global sports franchises it’s interested in, is equally determined to score a victory, a separate group of people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. The thinking is against playing conservative, said one person. The retail titan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on European soccer rights, and has forged a deal to broadcast Thursday Night Football in the US at $1 billion a season until 2033.

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