Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries and Asia’s richest man, and Jeff Bezos, chairman of Amazon and the world’s second-richest man, are about to go head-to-head in a spectacle like no other.
Both men’s companies will face off in a televised bidding war for the multibillion-dollar rights to stream Indian cricket. Given how tense relations are between the two parties, hopefully no one whips out an actual bat.
Opposing Batting Stance
Ambani, worth $100 billion, is a devout vegetarian and teetotaler who says he watches three Bollywood movies a week. Bezos, worth $275 billion, has a whiskey cellar at home and loves Star Trek so much he named his dog after a Kriosian empathic metamorph. Different as they are, Ambani decided in 2019 that he wanted a piece of Bezos’ turf.
Reliance, primarily an oil refining business, moved into e-commerce to directly challenge Amazon in India. A legal fight broke out last year, when Reliance, India’s top retailer, attempted a $3.4 billion acquisition of the retail division of Future Group, the nation’s second-largest retailer. But Amazon had already acquired a $200 million stake in Future Group in 2019 and argued such a deal constitutes a contract violation. Things got so heated in February that Reliance staff literally seized Future stores in a de facto coup.
Which sets up the forthcoming auction drama for the streaming rights to the Indian Premier League:
- For the first time ever, the wildly popular cricket league is auctioning streaming rights separately from television rights. The catch is the auction will be broadcast live on June 12, with Amazon and Reliance expected to make rapid succession bids that could top $7 billion, according to Bloomberg.
- The winner gets to stream IPL games between 2023 and 2027, and, with them, a giant audience: Almost 800 million Indians have internet access to stream sports, and the first 29 matches of IPL’s 2021 season drew a combined 367 million viewers, according to India’s Cricket Board secretary Jay Shah.
Royal Rumble: The June auction could go from a tale of the tape to a full-on WWE-style brawl of the business titans. Disney, Sony Pictures, Meta’s Facebook, and Alphabet’s YouTube are all considering bidding, according to Bloomberg.