Ten Sports launching 1 April

Based in the UAE but built specifically for India. Launching 1 April is Taj Entertainment Network (Ten) Sports, a channel that has the subcontinent as its target of coverage.

Announcing this today, television services and content provider Taj Television Ltd CEO Chris McDonald said the channel, the brainchild of the man who made Sharjah cricket what it is today - Abdulrahman Bukhatir - would reach audiences in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives to begin with.

The channel is being unveiled just ahead of the start of the next tri-nation Sharjah cricket tourney involving Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand that kicks off on 8 April.

DISTRIBUTION UNDER MODI GROUP-PROMOTED FIRM: Distributing Ten Sports in India is HMA Udyog Ltd. McDonald admitted that one of the promoters of HMA Udyog is a Modi Group company. The industry grapevine has said that the Modis had won the right to be the distribution platform for Ten Sports ahead of the Zee Network and Sony Entertainment.

Ten Sport's cricket programme line up includes The Sharjah Cup, Cricket Triangulars from Morocco, Classic India and Sharjah Cricket, The Sharjah Champions Trophy, Australia's tour of Zimbabwe in April/May as well as all international cricket from Sri Lanka.

Taj picked up the Sri Lanka cricket rights for a guarantee fee of $13.9 million. The rights, which were earlier with World Sports Group-Nimbus (WSG-Nimbus), reportedly runs till 2003 (the period for which WSG Nimbus had the rights when it originally signed a three-year deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka in 2000).

Ten Sports will also broadcast other popular sporting events like the World Wrestling Federation, The English FA Cup, Manchester United FootbaIl, the WTA - the best of women's tennis from all over the world, the ATP Dubai Tennis Open, The Ryder Cup, Champions Trophy Hockey and Champions Challenge Hockey, an official release states.

The channel has signed up two well-known names from the world of entertainment & sports in Raageshwari and former test cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar as channel ambassadors. While Manjrekar will be hosting regular sports shows, Raageshwari gets behind the personal side of sporting personalities on One on One With Raageshwari.

Taj Television operates out of a 55,000 square-feet state-of-the-art facility at Dubai Media City. It will beam off the Panamsat 10 satellite initially as a digital free-to-air channel but will be going pay at a date that is still to be decided, McDonald says.

Commenting on the programming that Ten Sports was offering, Peter Hutton, vice-president, programming and events, said Ten Sports started with an immediate advantage in that it held the broadcast rights to four cricket tourneys in virtual perpetuity - two Sharjah tourneys as well as a new offshore cricket venue in Morocco, which will showcase its first tournament in August.

Outside of cricket, one sporting property that is exclusive to Ten Sports is WWF events. Ten Sports will be showcasing eight hours of WWF programming every week and plans to push this in a big way, Hutton says.

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