Streamers and Broadcasters Square Off for Rights to Soccer, Cricket Leagues

Image Credit: iStock, stefanamer

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The final buzzer has sounded, and the game is over. After a high-flying auction season for the streaming and broadcasting rights to wildly popular Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket and rapidly growing US-based Major League Soccer (MLS), winners have, for the most part, been declared.

For traditional players like Disney and Paramount, as well as disruptors like Amazon and Apple, it’s a game of musical chairs — everyone wants a seat, somewhere, and there aren’t enough to go around.

Apple Scores a Goal

In a television world increasingly defined by fragmentation (not to mention obsolescence, in the face of internet-based, attention-eating competitors like TikTok and YouTube), the rights to broadcast live sporting events remains one of the few universally-coveted pieces of content. So when leagues near the end of their current broadcasting contracts, incumbents and competitors giddily line up for a shot at multi-year contracts carrying the near-guarantee of dedicated viewers — and, for streamers, subscribers.

But savvy sports leagues have realized they can double their haul, and now often offer separate rights to their content to both linear TV networks and online streamers. For the IPL and MLS, it meant turning the auction process into a bare-knuckle, bench-clearing barnburner:

  • On Tuesday, Disney ponied up $3 billion to retain IPL’s TV rights in India — which will air on its Star India television network — but lost the streaming rights it previously owned after a joint venture led by Paramount Global won with a bid of $2.6 billion. Star India (then owned by 21st Century Fox) won both TV and streaming rights in 2017 for only $2.2 billion, and Disney streamed matches on Disney+ in India; without IPL, analysts tell The Wall Street Journal the streamer could lose tens of millions of its 50 million subscribers in the nation. Ouch.
  • On Tuesday, Apple announced a new 10-year deal to exclusively stream MLS matches through its Apple TV app, though early reporting suggests it may require a separate subscription entirely from Apple TV+. According to reporting from the Sports Business Journal, Apple is paying a minimum of $250 million per season, starting in 2023; linear TV rights, meanwhile, are still up for grabs.

Too Rich for Bezos: Rumors of Amazon’s interest in IPL rights had long circulated, but Bloomberg reports the multi-billion price tag scared the e-commerce giant away. After agreeing last year to pay $1 billion per season for exclusive rights to NFL Thursday Night Football games (and reporting its first quarterly loss in seven years in April), it isn’t any wonder Amazon is suddenly cost-conscious.