This is a billion dollars plus telling you that, like it or not, Twenty20 cricket is here to stay. And it's one more pointer to the growing economic clout of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
On Monday, Sony Entertainment Television and the World Sports Group combined forces to outdo ESPN-Star Sports (ESS) and win the media rights for the forthcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) for a whopping $1.026 billion (approx Rs 4030 crore), for a period of 10 years.
The tenders were opened here on Monday in the presence of the key BCCI office-bearers who conceptualised the IPL. IPL chairman-cum-commissioner Lalit Modi, announcing the deal, also said the money "includes $108 million for compulsory promotional activities".
What is fascinating is that the amount is almost as high as what was paid by the ESS to bag the International Cricket Council's (ICC's) tournament hosting rights for a period of eight years. Last year, ESS signed a $1.1 billion-deal with the ICC for acquiring the rights for all the tournaments hosted by the ICC from 2007 to 2015. That should cover a couple of one-day World Cups, four Champions Trophies, as many T20 World Cups, apart from two women's World Cups and four Under-19 World Cups.
Meanwhile, Kunal Dasgupta, chief executive officer, SET India, said the 59 Twenty20 matches, to be played across eight major cities for 44 days from April 18, will be "exclusively" aired live on SET Max.
Modi believes that Prasar Bharti is unlikely to show an interest in airing the matches. "As of now, we haven't heard anything from them," said Modi. "And I don't think the question should arise because, till now, they have been interested only in international matches."
He also cleared the air over the participation of several high profile Australian cricketers in the IPL after the ongoing Indo-Australian controversy. "Not all of them may be available in the first year because of Australia's tour to Pakistan but we have a number of other top players available to us," he said.
He added that the "player auction" of the 80 international cricketers who had already been signed would be held "around February 7".