ESPN purchases telecast rights for Bangladesh cricket from the late Mark Mascarenhas' widow

Cricket rights are being bounced around like nobody's business at the moment. ESPN Star Sports today announced it has secured broadcast rights for all international cricket to be played in Bangladesh till mid-2006.

The announcement comes even before the dust has settled on Sony Entertainment's announcement that it has grabbed the Indian TV rights for the next six years to broadcast ICC (International Cricket Council) cricket championships from under the nose of ESPN Star Sports as it were.

The rights include over 90 days of international cricket from Bangladesh covering at least seven international tours by India, South Africa, West Indies, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia, an official release states.

With the Bangladesh rights, ESPN Star Sports holds rights to cricket in all test playing countries except India and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka telecast rights, which were earlier with WSG Nimbus, are now reportedly with the promoter of Sharjah cricket Abdulrahman Bukhatir through his company Taj Sports.

The tripartite agreement involving the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), WorldTel Inc. and ESPN STAR Sports, was signed by Mohammed Ali Asghar, president, BCB, Mrs. Karen Mascarenhas, representing the late Mark Mascarenhas's WorldTel and Rik Dovey, managing director, ESPN Star Sports.

BCB had earlier assigned the worldwide rights to all international cricket events to be played in Bangladesh to WorldTel for a reported $ 11.7 million covering nine home series.

WorldTel was involved in a long-running dispute with Sony which had bought the exclusive television rights for a reported $ 17 million. There was a major standoff between Sony and WorldTel subsequently as it wanted the deal renegotiated. This led to Bangladesh's maiden home series against Zimbabwe not being telecast abroad.

The next series which involved Pakistan saw an arrangement being cobbled together wherein BTV was in charge of production and Ekushey TV (the first private broadcaster in Bangladesh) teaming up with Pakistan Television (PTV) for telecast of the matches.

The million dollar question is what was paid out to secure the rights. That there were no takers for the rights at the rates that were being quoted is well known. It may well be that WorldTel has cut its losses in what appears to be a distress sale. The numbers being thrown around are somewhere in the region of $4 million.

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