The BCCI has opened the tender process for the next cycle of IPL television and digital rights beginning in 2018, and will accept bids until October 25. The television rights are currently held by Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI) and expire after the 2017 IPL season. Star India are in possession of the digital rights and the overseas media rights, except in the UK and the US, all of which also expire after IPL 2017.
Interested parties will vie for television rights for the IPL in the Indian subcontinent until 2027, digital rights in the same region until 2022 and media rights for the rest of the world until 2022 as well. "Bidders may bid for any combination from the above," a BCCI press release said.
The open-tender process, BCCI president Anurag Thakur said, would ensure there was transparency: "We don't want anything where anyone can point a finger at us."
Speaking at a press conference in Delhi, Thakur said the process did not contravene the Lodha Committee's recommendations on transacting official business. "Where does this action say it defies the court order? I haven't seen that.This is routine process, routine working of BCCI. I think the AGM on 21st is not far away; you will have to wait for three days to understand what business we can adopt and what actions will be taken during that time."
One of the eligibility criteria for the bidders is to have "no litigation with BCCI". Thakur said the board has lost a lot of money in legal battles in the past did not want a repeat of that. In 2015, the BCCI was directed to pay INR 12 crore ($1.8 million) to Nimbus communications for wrongful termination.
"We have been into litigation in the past where certain broadcasters have bid. In the first few years the rate is less, in the last few years the rate is more," he said. "There is more litigation with them and BCCI has lost a lot of money in litigation as well as money which was supposed to be used for promotion of game. Broadcasting rights money is the major source of income for the cricket board."
The existing contract, with SPNI, allows them the first right of refusal as well as the right to match a counter-offer. Their reaction to the IPL rights going up for bidding remains to be seen, although inside sources suggested they felt the BCCI was not honouring the original agreement.
Thakur said he had invited SPNI to the bidding process. "We have made it very clear that anyone who wants to participate, they have to come and participate. We believe in transparency, accountability as well as professionalism. Sony has been asked to participate in this. We were supposed to offer - this is our offer to them. Our offer is to come and participate in the bidding process.
"As far as IPL is concerned, we are very happy with Sony," Thakur said. "They have been a good partner and have also put in a lot of effort to make the IPL the world's most popular cricket league. In a way, we don't want any litigation and we don't want to deal with anyone who is already into litigation with the BCCI."
BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri said the board was under no obligation to accept the highest financial bid. "Two people can put similar amount of money but the value could be different," he said.
"Sometimes we get very similar bids but when the financial advisors look at what is the value of it, how it is spread over 10 years, the final definition of the best offer for the BCCI has to be left to the financial advisors."
Johri said the financial due diligence of the process would be handled by Deloitte, and the legal due diligence would be handled by Amarchand Mangaldas.
Asked why the television rights for the Indian subcontinent were awarded for ten years, Johri said the BCCI wanted to replicate the current cycle, which gave SPNI the rights from 2008 to 2017. "In our country television is very well established," he said. "If you look at most cricket tenders, eight years-ten years have been the norm. That's why we went for 10 years. The area where trends are changing very fast is digital, that's why we have reduced digital to five years."
The Invitation To Tender document will be available from Monday. While the last day for purchase has been set for October 18, parties interested in the bid could seek clarifications from the BCCI on the tender process till October 4.
ESPN has a long-term collaboration with Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) for the launch of SONYESPN-branded television channels and digital assets in India and the subcontinent