After having done with the Indian market, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has set sights on the United States, Australia, Canada and the Caribbean. Over the next 24 hours, it will be releasing its next Invitation To Tender (ITT) for the media rights in these regions.
“Following the successful conclusion of the Indian market media rights tender, the ICC is starting the next phase of its media sales process across targeted markets, including the USA,” the ICC said, announcing the ITT launch. It recently sold the India rights for $ 3 billions to Star Sports, which later divided the property into two parts and parted with the television rights and sub-licensed them to Zee. It has kept the digital rights for itself.
The bids, again, are being invited from the four identified markets primarily for the eight world events, from 2024 to 31, for men and for four events, from 2024-27, for women’s championships. In the combined ITT, there will be 16 men’s events, including Under 19 championships, and six women’s competitions.
At this stage, the ICC has neither announced the base price nor an asking price. It might consider fixing an asking price if there is a demand, just like there was from the Indian broadcasters. However, unlike in India, these packages will be for the combined TV and digital rights, with no standalone package being offered. Interested parties must submit a bid for the first four years of men’s events. They also have the option of bidding for an eight-year association.
It is the first time the ICC is approaching each market separately. An obvious takeaway from this strategy of segregation is that it will become translucent to the cricket world on the contributions of different regions/countries to the income of the ICC, more specifically vis-a-vis India.
Last time around, 70 per cent of the rights income was generated from the Indian market. After India, the United Kingdom contributes most to the ICC revenue followed by the United States, South Africa, Pakistan and Australia. The ICC, however, will go to the Pakistan market mid-next year, after it is done with other parts of the world.
In the United States, there is a new-found interest for cricket of late. Keeping up with the trend, the ICC has also allotted the joint hosting rights of a world event, Twenty20 World Cup, to the US, which will be held in the country and the Caribbean in 2024. Presently, the ICC events are broadcast on Willow TV, a Times Internet subsidiary like Cricbuzz, and ESPN +, an OTT platform. Then there are media houses like NBC, CBS, Amazon and Apple. NBC shows the Olympics there.
“The USA is one of the ICC’s targeted growth markets, and with 30 million cricket fans already enjoying the sport there, a World Cup scheduled to be co-hosted in that country in 2024 and our exciting ambition for inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games, there couldn’t be a better time for cricket to find a broadcast partner to help grow the game across the region,” ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice said.
In the neighbouring Caribbean, the competitors could be Sports Max, Flow TV and ESPN. In Canada, Willow Canada is the current rights holder. Previously the ICC events were on Rogers and on ATN prior to that.
Foxtel and Channel Nine presently share the ICC events Down Under. The Australia international rights are with Foxtel and Channel Seven, who jointly ended in 2018 the hegemony of Channel Nine, which had enjoyed monopoly in cricket for 40 years. For the record, both Fox and Seven recently sealed a $ 4.5 billion dollar deal for AFL, the most popular sport in the country. Seven also owns the rights for the Olympics. Its OTT platform 7plus is very popular and does not have a paywall like Fox’s OTT App, Kayo.
Apart from Nine, Seven and Fox, there is Network Ten, which used to show Big Bash. It has been recently acquired by CBS Paramount, an American firm, and it could be one of the contenders for the rights just as Optus Sports, which recently bagged the rights of the English Premier League.
Australia is a unique market for the ICC and often not every World Cup game, those involving minor teams for instance, may not be available on the telly there. With only about 26 million people and the ICC events going live at night, except when happening in Australia (in 2028 in this cycle), the market dynamics are different. But things seem to be changing soon, particularly with the rapidly increasing South Asian population (there are about 750,000 Indians), principally all cricket fans. But will that convert into higher media rights revenue for the ICC is anybody’s guess.