Cricket is not just a game, it is indeed nothing short of a religion in India. And the most popular face of Indian cricket (and world cricket) is not just the national team or the BCCI, it is a T20 tournament that revealed itself in 2008 and took the spotlight.

Fast-forward to 2022, and any questions about its popularity can be dismissed by the fact that an IPL game is now worth a record $13.44 million (₹105 crores) – 93.6% higher than the per match value in the previous IPL rights deal (₹54.23 crores).

This places it only behind the NFL in the list of the most lucrative sports products, globally. This also means that it left the coveted Premier League behind – each EPL match (from 2019-2022) was worth $11 million, and each NFL match (from 2014-22) is worth $17 million.

The best part is that this is not the maximum it can reach, as this number will keep on increasing as the e-auction for IPL media rights continues. Day 1 was yesterday, which saw the BCCI confirmed of at least ₹43,050 crores (nearly $5.5Billion ) in both television and digital rights – a number that is an increase of ₹26,050 crores ($3.3 Billion) from the previous cycle of IPL’s media rights.

That this comes after Amazon, a heavyweight, pulled out of the media rights race highlights the popularity and revenue-earning capacity of the tournament. None of the current bidders – Disney-Star, Sony, Viacom-Reliance, Zee, Fun Asia, Super Sport, and Times Internet – conceded an inch. So far, the combined sum bid is ₹38,850 crores (nearly $5 billion), which is a 140% increase from the $2.55 billion Star India gave for the 2018-2022 IPL rights.

“We are very happy with the day’s proceedings,” IPL chairman Brijesh Patel told Cricbuzz. “We are very happy that things are going the way they were planned,” Arun Singh Dhumal, treasurer of the BCCI, told Reuters. “The participants are very enthusiastic. The bidding is still on and we are hoping for a good number tomorrow.”

Breaking up we find that this includes ₹21,090 crores (amounting to $2.7 billion) for Package A – TV rights for the Indian sub-continent, and ₹17,760 crores (amounting to $2.27 billion) for Package B – the digital rights for the Indian subcontinent. This amount is already 2.38 times (138%) higher than the 2018-22 IPL rights deal, which Star India got in 2017 for $2.55 billion.

Package B got 30 bids on Day 1, while Package A got 16 bids. The auction started from the per match base price of ₹49 crores ($6.3 million) for Package A and ₹33 crores ($4.2 million) for Package B. The same for Packages C and D were ₹16 crores ($2.05 million) and ₹3 crores ($390,000) respectively.

The highest bids for Packages A and B came at ₹57 crores ($7.29 million – 16.3% higher than the base price set by IPL) and ₹48 crores ($6.14 million – 45.4% higher than the base price) respectively. The one who manages to bag Package A will have the right to compete for the digital rights by doing so with the highest bidder in Package B. The auctions for Packages C and D will start once the highest bidders for Packages A and B have been determined.

Whoever emerges the victor, the BCCI will be the one who profits from what is undoubtedly one of the biggest media rights bonanzas in sports. While people will surely watch the 74 IPL matches (as of IPL 2022) on TV or at the stadium, another large audience will watch them via digital means like Disney+ Hotstar (which reached a peak of 8.7 million viewers during an IPL match this year).