How Rishabh Pant’s genius helped secure $360 million rights deal

Three separate trips had been made to India to gauge interest, in late last year, March this year and again around the time of the IPL final in late May. There had, up to a point, been some reasons for pessimism given how the UK rights, put up late last year, had to be sold off at a significant discount due to a lack of competitive tension between BT and Sky, the two main bidders.

But in India, as broadcasters built up their own warchests for the IPL, there was always likely to be plenty of cash available from whichever broadcasters failed to secure all the packages they were seeking at the BCCI’s auction in June.

While CA did get close to reaching more modest terms with Sony, the enormous sums of money flashed around at the time of the IPL auction provided executives and board directors alike with some reason for pause, to see what was left over.

Day/night Tests may become increasingly prevalent in future India visits to Australia.Credit:Getty Images

As it turned out, they did not have long to wait. Star, having won the television rights for the IPL but lost out on the digital package to Viacom, made swift and decisive contact with CA in the days after the auction over the Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Their purpose was two-fold. First, the spare money available after the IPL auction gave Star the scope to change focus. Secondly, CA’s rights were effectively the “next cab off the rank”, with those for ICC events such as ODI and T20 World Cups to go on sale in August.

Given exceptionally strong audiences for Test cricket in Australia over the past four years, a cycle with two expanded India Test series, plus two Ashes contests, was too attractive to let slide.

At a time when they are still navigating a bitter legal dispute with Seven, the direct result of its $450 million component of the $1.2 billion Australian rights deal shared with Foxtel in 2018 when the governing body cut ties with its former partners Nine and Ten, CA’s leaders did consider the relational implications of flipping from Sony back to Star.

Any concerns were assuaged in part by plenty of past history with Star, while dialogue with Sony had to remain cordial, given the network still holds the rights for the forthcoming Australian summer, and Test tours by the West Indies and South Africa.


Equally, though, the appreciable uplift in rights value being offered by Star was gratefully accepted by CA after last year’s UK outcome, and during a period where Hockley and company are trying to rebuild financial reserves after COVID-19’s effects.

“Disney Star is synonymous with the game in India and we look forward to working with them to showcase the outstanding cricket played in Australia every summer,” Hockley said on Sunday.

“The magnitude of this association is a testament to the enduring rivalry and respect that exists between Australian and Indian teams, the excitement and popularity of WBBL and BBL, and the high regard of Australian cricket in India and global markets more broadly.″⁣

With the second-biggest deal in Australian cricket now accomplished, the next task will be to try to wring similar competitive interest out of a domestic broadcast market in which Seven, for all the legalities, still looms large.

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