BT and Sky set to tussle for IPL rights as exclusivity returns

Cricket’s Indian Premier League is poised to return to an exclusive broadcast rights agreement in the UK, after pay-TV rivals BT Sport and Sky were handed a deadline to submit their bids for a three-year contract.

SportBusiness understands that Star India, which holds the global IPL rights from 2018 to 2022, has asked the duo to lodge their bids by January 24.

Other UK broadcasters are not precluded from the process, although BT and Sky are considered the standout candidates ahead of the 13th IPL season, which will begin on March 29.

By inviting bids for exclusive rights from 2020 to 2022, Star is changing tack in its UK rights strategy.

Last year, Star signed a one-season agreement with BT Sport but that deal was non exclusive as coverage was also showcased on Hotstar, Star’s OTT streaming service, and its linear channel Star Gold. Star used the coverage on Hotstar to develop UK interest in its nascent OTT platform.

Sky announced a long-term IPL rights deal in the UK and Ireland with Star in March 2018 but only a formal one-year contract was in place and the agreement was scrapped after an extension option was not taken up.

Star will now seek to fully monetise a rights agreement in the UK as it looks to benefit from the wider public interest in the sport in the wake of England’s 2019 Cricket World Cup win.

At December’s player auction, a total of 13 England players were either bought or retained by the eight IPL franchises. These include England stars Eoin Morgan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Jason Roy and Chris Woakes (Delhi Capitals), Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler (Rajasthan Royals) and Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers Hyderabad).

The UK’s IPL broadcast coverage moved to Sky in 2015 after previously being showcased by ITV, the free-to-air commercial broadcaster.

Star holds platform-neutral global IPL rights for the 2018 to 2022 cycle, which it acquired in 2017 for $2.55bn (€2.29bn) in a deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Star’s international IPL broadcast deals in place in other key countries and regions include agreements with Fox Sports (Australia), Sky New Zealand, SuperSport (sub-Saharan Africa) and beIN Sports (Middle East and North Africa). Television rights were sold to Willow TV in the US market with digital rights retained for exploitation on Hotstar.