Sky lands IPL rights in return to UK exclusivity

Pay-television broadcaster Sky Sports has acquired exclusive rights to cricket’s Indian Premier League in the UK and Ireland in a three-year deal from 2020 to 2022.

The deal, which was announced this morning, allows the broadcaster to show all 60 matches per edition on its Sky Sports channels.

The agreement marks the IPL’s return to an exclusive broadcast rights agreement in one of cricket’s core markets.

Last year, international rights-holder Star India signed a non-exclusive one-season agreement with BT Sport. 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.

Star targeted an exclusive long-term agreement from 2020 onwards and initiated the sales process last month, as exclusively reported by SportBusiness. Both Sky and BT were asked to lodge their bids by January 24.

Commenting on the acquisition of the rights, Rob Webster, Sky Sports managing director said: “The VIVO IPL is a truly spectacular competition and one that grips you from start to finish. The tournament features the world’s best T20 players, all playing in-front of thousands of passionate fans across the India.”

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).

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

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 (€2.34bn) 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.

The 13th IPL season will begin on March 29.