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B4U picks up terrestrial telecast rightsof FIFA World Cup from Taj Sports

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Here's yet another twist to the convoluted tale of national broadcaster Doordarshan's bid to arrange World Cup soccer telecast. DD now has to deal with a new entrant on the scene - B4U Networks Ltd - which has secured the terrestrial telecast rights of the matches from Dubai-based Taj Sports, which promotes new kid on the block broadcaster Ten Sports.

While refusing to divulge the financial terms of the purchase of rights from Ten Sports, B4U chief distribution officer Debashish Dey said that come what may, the Indian public would get to see all the World Cup matches. And that too on DD.

Said he: "We have picked up the terrestrial rights for World Cup soccer and B4U is committed to the Indian masses. We cannot allow the soccer loving public to miss out on such a high quality sporting extravaganza, which happens only once every four years. "

Dey revealed there were three possibilities as far as the arrangement with DD regarding telecast was concerned: "We could sell the rights to DD, we could reach a revenue sharing deal; or if both fail to fructify, we will buy time slots on DD and show the matches."

Dey added that a major initiative that B4U was organising would be in the football-crazy Kolkata metro, where they were planning to show key matches in ten to 15 cinema halls in prominent locations of the city.

Queried as to whether the six-hour delay in telecast that Taj Sports has stipulated would prove a disadvantage as far as marketing the event was concerned, Dey said because Japan was four hours ahead of India timewise, the match timings would in fact be a boon for B4U.

In the capital meanwhile, a senior official of Prasar Bharati, told indiantelevision.com: "We have received intimation from B4U that for the terrestrial rights (of the soccer matches) we now have to negotiate with it instead of Ten Sports."

Pointing out that DD officials are looking into this new twist of events, the Prasar Bharati official added, "The soccer matches telecast saga is getting more curious by the day even as pressure is mounting on Prasar Bharati to resolve the telecast issue as soon as possible."

Though the official was not sure as to why Ten Sports, which had been negotiating with DD till recently, had brought in B4U in the ongoing talks, it was indicated that it may be because of the equations B4U's chief executive Ravi Gupta had with the pubcaster.

Not only does B4U have a working relationship with DD (B4U used to supply DD with movies till last year under an agreement since then expired and still has some programmes running on one of the DD channels), Gupta is the former head of National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), a unit under the information and broadcasting ministry which funds and markets Indian movies.

B4U's entry notwithstanding, if DD does manage to conclude some deal for the telecast of the soccer matches, it will have to be on a six-hour deferred basis.

B4U taking charge of the responsibility to air the matches will probably make irrelevant moves by Indian political heavyweights like Das Munshi, closely associated with the All India Indian Football Federation (AIFF), who have been lobbying hard with Ten Sports and even FIFA itself so that some soccer matches can be telecast live on Doordarshan's terrestrial network.

Political sources said there is still the possibility that public interest litigation (PIL) may be filed to curb Ten Sports' exclusivity on the telecast rights of the soccer matches. In India, this is an oft-used method to get temporary stay on proceedings. It may be recalled that when Kaun Banega Crorepati on Star Plus was ruling the airwaves, competition had various legal cases filed against the programme in different courts of the country on the basis that the game show "encouraged gambling."

That most of the cases got thrown out of the courts is another matter, but, in the short term, the Star Network had to undergo some inconvenience.

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