In one of the biggest telecast deals in Indian cricket, the consortium of India's Sony Television network and the Singapore-based World Sports Group (WSG) has secured the rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the officially-sanctioned Twenty20 league, for ten years at a cost of more than US$1 billion. As part of the deal, the consortium will pay the BCCI US$908 million for the telecast rights and US$108 million for the promotion of the tournament.
Announcing the deal, BCCI vice-president and IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi said, "We are absolutely delighted ... we have what we believe to be the best deal for the Indian Premier League and Indian cricket fans."
While the programming and ad sales strategy has yet to be worked out by Sony and WSG, Kunal Dasgupta, CEO of Sony Entertainment Television India, told Business Standard, "WSG will explore the international market while Sony will cater to the subcontinent." Sony's previous big foray into cricket broadcasting was when it signed a five-year deal in excess of US$200 million with the ICC in 2002.
Modi said that initially 80% of the revenues from the sale of media rights will go to the IPL franchises, gradually tapering down to 60% over the subsequent years. He also revealed that the bids for the franchises, the base price of which is US$50 million, will be opened on January 24 while player auctions would follow around February 7.
The IPL has a pool of at least 78 cricketers with international experience from which the franchises can sign on players. Shane Warne will be the most expensive player, costing US$400,000 for a franchise to employ him. The next highest fee is for Glenn McGrath and Stephen Fleming, of US$350,000.
IPL matches are likely to be held in the late-afternoon or evening in a bid to attract larger television audiences. Floodlighting in Delhi and Hyderabad, which are the only cities among the twelve earmarked for hosting matches in the inaugural season to not have floodlights installed, would be completed by March 30, he said.
Modi was unconcerned that several players might not be available for the the first year of the IPL due to international commitments. "Not all of them may be available ... but we have a number of other top players available to us," he said. New Zealand's tour of England and Australia's tour of West Indies are both scheduled to commence in the second half of May.
The IPL is a BCCI-backed Twenty20 league involving eight franchises and its inaugural season will consist of 59 games and is scheduled to start in April 2008. Each franchise will play the others on a home-and-away basis, with the top four sides going through to the semi-finals. The two IPL finalists will also advance to the new Champions Twenty20 tournament, which features the best teams of the domestic Twenty20 tournaments, tentatively scheduled for October 2008.