Few in cricket-crazy india are expected to follow its team’s one-off Test match against Afghanistan that begins on June 14 in Bengaluru. It can only go one way—India’s star-studded side is ranked No.1 whereas Afghanistan is a newbie in the game. Yet, Star India will keep a close eye on the game .

The match may seem low-key, but it marks the beginning of Star India’s new Rs 6,138 crore ($944 million) broadcast deal for the Indian cricket team’s international and domestic matches in the country. The expensive contract covers 102 matches over the next five years and values India’s international cricket at Rs 60.18 crore a match.

How does that compare with the domestic Indian Premier League (IPL)? Despite the perceived commercial superiority of franchise cricket such as the IPL, Star has valued international cricket higher. Star paid the Board of Control for Cricket in India Rs 16,347.5 crore for the rights last year. With 300 matches over five years, the IPL contract is worth a lower Rs 54.5 crore a match. Cricket commentator Chetan Narula says the higher valuation for international cricket is understandable, as the IPL has limited geographic appeal since it is a domestic tournament .

But the high valuation may not be bad business. “If we look at it holistically, nobody has ever lost money in cricket in India,” says Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO (South Asia), Dentsu Aegis Network, a marketing company. He says, over the five years, “Star will be able to drive its penetration much deeper”.

The contract also includes digital rights. Star’s Hotstar is the most popular videostreaming service in India, say multiple independent research firms. Bhasin says digital subscriptions, which contribute only a small portion of overall revenue, could increase in future. He says, though the ad market is growing at 10%, the market is not in a position to bear an “infinite increase in advertising rates”. He says if provided with services like multiple-language commentary, digital subscription could grow at a higher pace.

In short, Star’s gameplan is long-term. A lot like Test cricket.

(The article was originally published in June 2018 issue of the magazine.)

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