What we can learn from Facebook’s $610 million failed IPL bid

IPL is India’s biggest sports league. In a span of 10 years, it has become one of the hottest and most sought-after sports events for traditional and digital broadcasting.

The recently concluded IPL media rights bidding process was a testimony to the growth and demand of the league. In probably the most transparent of all sports broadcasting bids, IPL proved it’s demand with 14 out of 24 companies vying for National and International television and digital broadcasting rights for 5 years.

Rupert Murdoch owned Star network was the eventual winner of both television and digital rights in an astonishing $2.6 billion for a package that included broadcast and streaming rights. They won the rights for being the only global bid bidder.

The highlight of the bid process, however, was the battle for the India subcontinent digital rights, which saw a mix of big players from India and the silicon valley going head to head.

The most anticipated category of the bid process attracted companies like Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, ESPN Digital, BAM Tech amongst the top names turned out to be a five-way race between TIL, Airtel, Jio, Star, and Facebook.

Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, ESPN Digital picked up the tender but did not enter the bid and BAM Tech was disqualified for lack of documentation (submission). This left Facebook the only representative of the Silicon Valley.

What really surprised me was Facebook seemed to be unfazed by the asking price and in fact, they were the highest bidders with a $610 million bid to digitally broadcast the 2-month league in India!

Facebook and Twitter are focusing very heavily on video and in this case sports based content seems to be an anchor content for Facebook. In February, Facebook was reported to have live streamed all 46 football matches of the top level Mexican football league Liga MX 2017 season. Facebook has also actively live streaming ESL esports events.

Recently at the Soccerex, Jerry Newman – Facebook sports partnerships in Europe, spoke about their new video platform ‘Watch’, their platform for sports content. They launched it with a documentary about Real Madrid.

How serious is Mark Zuckerberg about video content and in particular sports as anchor content, you may ask? Facebook eventually wants all of its shows and content deals to move to an ad-revenue-sharing model, but right now it’s clearly comfortable spending money upfront — even hundreds of millions of dollars — to secure streaming rights for marquee content.

Facebook may have lost in spite of their mammoth $610 million bid but their bid is a proof about their ambition to become a leader in sports video content.

Nilesh Deshmukh
I am passionate about sports and passionate about marketing. As a sports marketer, I have built significant expertise in successfully delivering medium to long term digital marketing strategy for global sports entities and brands like Arsenal FC, Manchester United FC, Chelsea FC, Major League Baseball, Formula E, and AELTC, etc to engage with their fans in India. I am currently based in London and lead India business at Engage Digital Partners.