Issues pertaining to Broadcasting in Indian Premier League – A Way Forward

[By Manvee]

The author is a student at Chanakya National Law University, Patna.


Recently Indian Premier League became the world’s 2nd richest league and the reason behind this was that BCCI saw the auction of IPL media rights for more than 48,000 crores for the year 2023-27 cycle. IPL since its inception has proved to be beneficial in monetary aspects for the BCCI as well as the Indian Economy and this was possible because of the selling of media rights, auctions of the teams, and selling of the IPL merchandise, Advertisements of different-different products in the IPL matches. We are untouched by the fact that how Internet penetration rate has seen a drastic increase in the last 5 years, especially during the times of pandemic when the world was under lockdown and everyone was binge-watching web series on their smartphones and smart TVs. During the Pandemic India saw a 60% increase in paid OTT subscribers and today in the year 2021 India has 70-80 million paid OTT subscribers. Hence, one should not be much surprised seeing the data that Viacom 18 purchased the digital rights for IPL for a hefty amount of Rs. 23,758 crores. In fact, for the cycle of 2018-22, Star India won the IPL media rights for a bid of Rs. 16,347 which comprised both Digital and TV rights, as OTT platforms got popular and people became much more aware of the OTT & Digital Platform, this time we saw an increase of 3 times in IPL media rights. It is evident from the data only that how popular OTT platforms have become during these days that the digital rights only got sold for Rs. 23,758 crores for the cycle 2023-27 whereas both TV & Digital rights for the cycle 2018-22 were sold for Rs. 16,347 Crores and this data was only for Indian Subcontinent whereas if we talk about the World Rights for TV & Digital then it got sold for a sum of Rs. 1,057 crores to Times Internet & Viacom 18 combined. Coming to the TV rights for the Indian Subcontinent it got sold for Rs. 23,575 crores to Disney-Star for the 2023-27 cycle. Since we have discussed the rights sold at such a large amount now, we need to look at the laws governing the broadcasting regime in IPL followed by the issues which are arising in this broadcasting regime and what lies ahead followed by how the issues arising can be resolved.

Issues Arising in Broadcasting Segment of IPL

As time evolved, we have seen how the Indian Sports Industry has turned from One Sport Industry to a multisport Industry. The industry started its commercialization with Cricket two decades back which today has extended its feet in other major segments like Kabaddi, Badminton, and Football leagues for commercial purposes. Whereas if we look into the commercialization of cricket then it has two sides to coin, if cricket is contributing monetarily heavily to the BCCI as well as the Indian Economy then it has a couple of issues arising sidewise with commercialization. Like in terms of broadcasting we can see several problems arising out and they are as follows: Monopolization of one broadcaster, Ambush marketing in the event by other broadcasters, the broadcaster in the dominant position could make the smaller broadcasters dependent on themselves either by Acquisitions or by the mergers as we saw in the case of Ten Sports where it was put to sell itself to Sony Pictures networks. And it is evident that Sony Pictures Network is one of the major broadcasters of the Indian Subcontinent and also the former broadcasting rights holder for IPL before the 2018 cycle.

1. Monopoly of Broadcasters

One of the major issues with the broadcasting regime in IPL is the Monopoly of the Broadcasters over the media rights. Star India has enjoyed the monopoly of IPL media rights for more than half a decade. The issues which consumers usually face due to the monopoly of one broadcaster may be further sub-categorized into the following:

  • More Advertisements

Broadcasters who are in a dominant position earn handsome revenue from advertising longer commercial breaks in the telecast of matches and these breaks not only affect the telecast scenario but also affect the real-time sports were to suit the needs of the broadcasters they have to move on accordingly. Here the broadcaster is in a dominant position just because of its bargaining power.

One of the examples of this could be in an IPL match where the commercial breaks get an expansion to spoil the experience of real-time viewers of the match who are watching the match in the stadium due to longer breaks between 2 overs to accommodate the higher number of advertisements for a longer duration.

  • Excessive Pricing

Sporting events are considered to be natural monopolies, one the broadcaster is able to eliminate the other key players of the market then it becomes the sole entity to supply the required event to the general public or the viewers at a large. Once the broadcaster is in a monopolization position then it may raise the subscription charges of the channels for the Cable & DTH operators as well as the OTT platforms and consequently any operator who wishes to telecast the particular sporting event, irrespective of the excessive pricing has to subscribe to that channel necessarily.

  • Leveraging the Promotion of New Ventures or Startups

The broadcasters in the dominant position may use the sports program as an aid for the promotion of startups or new ventures in the market by running their advertisements. The best example of the same could be during the TATA IPL 2022, three startups were promoted rigorously they were Byju’s – The Learning App, Dream 11 & Fogg Deodorants. Majorly these 3 brands saw the promotion across the season and these promotions have contributed a lot to their revenue generation as 2 of them turned unicorns recently. Dream 11 & Byju is getting promoted for the last 4-5 years constantly and in IPL 2020 Dream 11 was the title sponsor for the IPL which was also a contributing factor to its success.

  • Drop down of Pricing to Consumers

As the subscription charges increase for the channel it will directly affect the consumers at large who have to pay a hefty sum for watching that particular channel for the event which in the normal course of competition may be available for cheaper rates.

Star India monopolized its OTT platforms for more than half a decade for broadcasting IPL on Hotstar (OTT Platform), it is expected that Hotstar will see a decline of 15-25 million subscribers after Star lost the bidding for Digital rights this time.

2. Ambush Marketing

One of the common concerns for the broadcasters as well as the sponsors during the IPL remain is Ambush Marketing. In simple terms, we can define ambush marketing as a situation in which a brand desires to market their product by associating themselves with the event without legally obtaining permission from the concerned authorities of the event and also not contributing financially to the event via sponsorships.

IPL since its inception has seen ambush marketing a couple of times, some of the incidents of ambush marketing are; One of the prominent incidents is of Quikr IBL (Indian Becho League) Ad Campaign which was related to the unsold cricketers who were not playing for any of the IBL teams. Here the problem arises due to the word IBL which deliberately sounded like IPL, later on, the officials of IPL got Quikr to beep the word IBL from the advertisement but this beep proved to be beneficial for Quikr as it generated word of mouth for the promotion of the brand. Hence in this manner, Quikr despite being not officially associated with the IPL generated revenue from the deceptive promotions.

Another example of an ambush marketing campaign during IPL was Vivo-IPL 2021 where Unacademy ran its marketing campaign where the commentators seemingly in the middle of the match commentary started to talk about the offerings made by the Unacademy i.e. Live Classes by Unacademy, Top educators, etc. which left the audience astonished. The advertisement was of merely 15-20 seconds but was an attention catch that led to Unacademy’s financial gains despite not being officially associated with the event.


It is an undeniable fact that how Indian Premier League has benefited the Sports Fraternity at a large be it in terms of broadcasting or merchandising however Monopolization and Ambush marketing came out as a prominent issue arising in IPL. There are a couple of recommendations that I would like to make for curbing the monopolization of broadcasting rights, the tenure of the broadcasting rights in the contract should be for a limited period that is too short in nature and the Government should come up with a policy for the regulation of Sports Broadcasting at Central level so that the broadcasting could be regulated in India, presently India doesn’t have any of central legislation specifically for broadcasting. For curbing ambush marketing temporary legislation could be enacted for the period till the event continues which is Anti-Ambushing Law and dissolves when the event concludes.

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