The Rs 43,000 crore worth never-seen-before race to woo fans of the world’s most popular cricket tournament is about rural penetration, cost and all important ease of operation. Digital boasts of uncomplicated initiation through simple App download, TV flaunts the convenience of flipping channels. The subscribers, meanwhile, weigh their options.

The migrants making daily video calls home. The headphone-wearing daily-commuting young digital native. GPS navigation-equipped cabbies with time to kill between trips. Villagers not connected to a cable network but within the range of mobile towers. The pandemic-time new netizens. Rural folks with aspirations, and smartphones bought on EMIs. And above all, the powerful control-obsessed BCCI officials.

It is this eclectic group that will decide if the punt taken by the broadcasters at the recent record-breaking IPL e-auction would prove prudent in the long run. They will collectively determine if the latest IPL valuation of Rs 48,000 crore was actually an overreach or whether the BCCI and broadcasters have read right the tea leaves floating over the always-simmering IPL pot.

The Indian Express spoke to three industry old hands – all decision-makers with a skin in the game but insisting to remain anonymous – to understand the big churn. They hail the 2022 IPL auction as a watershed event that threw up two ground-breaking events – Digital surpassing TV in media rights valuation, and BCCI for the first time signing up more than one broadcaster.

The men in the thick of things agree that IPL’s new digital rights holder Viacom 18-Reliance, despite pushing the envelope and promising an unprecedented Rs 23,775 crore to the BCCI, will get their return on investment. To make their point, they talk about the dramatically-rising T20 consumption capacity of cricket fans and the recent Deloitte prediction about India’s smartphone count crossing 100 crore by 2024.