ICC media rights go haywire as auditor PwC withdraws at the last minute

In a letter to the International Cricket Council (ICC), Viacom18 has expressed displeasure over PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) being designated the ‘process auditor’ for the current ICC media rights process.

In a letter written by Viacom18 Sports CEO Anil Jayaraj, it has asked cricket’s governing body to immediately cancel the closed bidding process for the first phase, while seeking complete adoption of the e-auction process.

There was speculation in the media that the PwC, initially appointed by the ICC, had pulled out of the media rights process midway, angering partner broadcasters including Viacom18.

In June, the ICC issued its first Invitation for Media Rights (ITT) for the next cycle of ICC events starting in 2024. ITT is only for the Indian market, with six packages available on TVs only, digital only or a combination of both.

For the first time, the ICC said that the rights for men and women would be sold separately, and potential partners could bid for 16 men’s events (over eight years old) and six women’s events (over four years old).

Interested parties must submit bids for the first four years of the men’s and women’s events. However, they also have the option of bidding for an eight-year partnership in men’s events, according to the ICC’s FAQ.

“Initially, we are shocked by this development and the way the ICC has handled it. The ICC, without any formal explanation, made changes to the procedure document to vaguely inform the bidders about the resignation of PwC. At least it can be hoped that the process of auctioning a global event that attracts the attention of many sports lovers is done in a fair and transparent manner.”

“We would request the ICC to immediately confirm whether PwC would be involved in the further process and if not, the firm to replace PwC. We also request the ICC to explain the reasons that led to this development. PwC Opted out of the bidding process. This late stage, only confirms the material concerns that we had on the auction process and have taken it up with the ICC on several occasions in the last few days. These developments have taken a toll on the entire bidding process. Casting a cloud which should have been avoided,” wrote Jayaraj in his letter to the ICC

In a letter sent to the ICC on Wednesday evening, Jayaraj further wrote, “We are again requesting the IBC/ICC to take stringent measures to protect the sanctity of the entire process. In particular, in the interest of complete transparency and fairness, We request IBC to immediately cancel the closed bidding process currently envisaged for the first phase and fully adopt the e-auction process.”

“The above development has disappointed us so much that in the absence of such transparency as requested, we may be compelled to revisit our participation in the process. We request IBC/ICC to consider the above and e-auction as the sole process for the present bidding.”

The technical bids will have to be submitted to the ICC by 22 August, while the financial bids are to be sent to the governing body on 26 August.