The eighth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) begins tonight (Australian time) with the Kolkata Knight Riders taking on the Mumbai Indians at Eden Gardens. However it appears that Australian viewers will be once again be left without an Australian free-to-air or subscription broadcaster and have to rely on online streaming coverage for the world’s biggest Twenty20 tournament.
This is not the first year that Australians have been unable to watch the IPL through free-to-air or subscription television. Network Ten initially broadcast the tournament until a contractual dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and World Sport Group (WSG) (WSG had the IPL rights in partnership with Sony Corporation) saw TEN elect not to broadcast the tournament. At the time (in 2011) a TEN spokesperson told TV Tonight:
“As there is currently a significant legal dispute between The Board of Control for Cricket in India (which owns and controls the commercial rights in the Indian Premier League) and the company through which Network TEN secured the Australian broadcast rights, Network TEN has decided not to broadcast the IPL.”
As such, for the last few years Australians wanting to watch live IPL action legally have needed to stream the matches via YouTube. For the 2015 edition of the tournament, while Star India’s Hotstar website secured certain global online rights to the IPL (following a bidding process earlier this year), a tweet from @IPL suggests cricketgateway.com holds the streaming rights for Australia.
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) April 8, 2015
The lack of an Australian broadcaster is surprising given that well-known Australian players are highly sought after and key players in the IPL. As reported by Fox Sports, the 11 players that took to the field for Australia against England in the 2015 World Cup Opener at the MCG were sold to their respective IPL franchises for a total of $9.22 million.
Aside from the players, Aussie commentators will feature heavily on the world feed TV coverage of the tournament. Brendon Julian, Damien Fleming and Damien Martyn are part of the 26 strong world feed commentary team. Lisa Sthaleker and Melanie Jones will also feature, along with Anjum Chopra and Isa Guha, as they become the first women to join the IPL commentary team.
It is surprising to see that the IPL has failed to secure an Australian free-to-air or subscription broadcaster given that the IPL has broadcast partners in many other cricket markets around the world. With the Australian team now world champions and many of those players playing in the IPL, it is time for the IPL to be available via a free-to-air or a subscription television broadcaster in Australia.