Here’s a deal straight out of Rupert Murdoch’s playbook circa 1994. Just like Murdoch established Fox back then by paying an exorbitant-seeming sum ($1.6 billion at the time) for the rights to broadcast the NFL, Live Current Media is paying $50 million over ten years for the exclusive online rights to official content from the Indian Premier League (a new cricket league in India with a shorter, more fan-friendly version of the game—first match is tomorrow). Cricket is huge in India and elsewhere. It is a sport perfect for online distribution, with fans spread all over the world. Globally there are about one billion fans, estimates Live Current Media. And the Indian Premier League has already on track to generate $2 billion overall this year.
As part of the deal, Current Live will create and operate official sites for the Indian Premier League (IPLT20.com) and the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI.tv). Current Live will pay the Indian Premier League $3 million a year, and the BCCI $2 million a year for the exclusive online rights to official photos, video footage, live scoreboards, match results stats, a fantasy cricket league, ticketing, fan polling, contests, and more. It is a pretty big commitment for Live Current Media, a domain-name company with revenues of $9 million last year and a net loss of $2 million. The Canadian company is basically betting its entire $51 million over-the-counter market cap on this deal.
But Live Current also owns cricket.com, which will be seeded with content from this deal. Kulveer Taggar, the former CEO of Auctomatic (which was recently purchased by Current Live Media) and one of the internal champions of the deal tells me:
The Cricket.com vision is to create a site for cricket fans regardless of the country or specific league. Passionate cricket fans may be interested in watching a different league or may just want to stay up on all the cricket news they can get access to and that is what Cricket.com will deliver. Following this significant relationship with the IPL and BCCI, Live Current will be speaking with other cricket organizations and determining relationships for content, media access and distribution as appropriate.
There is no question that global multinationals are looking for ways to target the high-growth Indian market and that cricket is one of the few channels through which the majority of Indians are engaged with. It’s not surprising to see sponsors of the league such as Pepsi, Honda, and Citibank. It is not a local Indian phenomenon. There are major business players globally tapping into this market.
He expects to launch Cricket.com by the end of the summer or early fall. So really, this deal is all about gaining exclusive content for Cricket.com. But did Current Live Media pay too much for the rights? Taggar argues not:
Recently the Cricinfo.com site was sold to ESPN for over $50 million and while the site had good traffic, it did not have exclusive content rights negotiated for that price.
In other words, he wants to take on ESPN.com. Will this be the start of bidding wars for the exclusive online rights for other sports leagues, or does this only make sense for cricket? Whle you ponder that and wait for Cricket.com to launch, cricket fans can check out Cricketwires, a recently-launched Digg-like site for all things cricket.