ESS lays claim to India cricket telecast rights

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: Seeing what it had assumed till now was a deal done and sewn up suddenly having slipped out of its grasp, ESPN Star Sports has raised objections to Zee Telefilms' bid for the India cricket telecast rights --- the highest at Rs 12.06 billion.

In response to the news of Zee's pulling the rug under its feet, broken first by, ESPN Software managing director RC Venkateish has offered three reasons why the sports broadcaster should still be awarded the rights:

1) The tender document issued by the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) lists the successful telecast of live and delayed international cricket events for a period of at least two years as one of the eligibility criteria. This disqualifies Zee from the bid process, is the argument.

2) ESS has entered into an agreement which best protects the interests of national broadcaster Doordarshan. The deal offers DD Rs12.5 million per One-Day International in Year 1, Rs 15 million in Year 2, Rs 17.5 million in Year 3 and Rs 20 million in Year 4 of the contract. There is also an 80:20 revenue share for earnings above the minimum gauranteed sum built into the deal.

3) ESS has proven expertise of over 10 years of developing sporting properties, including cricket.

According to Venkateish, if these three points are kept in mind, as well as the fact that it was ESS (and not Sony as was reported in's earlier report) that had the second highest bid, the BCCI should still award it the rights.

Venkateish's contention is that the reasons stated and the fact that ESS' bid was "just 10 per cent off" Zee's quote when taken together make for a compelling case.

Though Venkateish refused to commit on any figures, has culled some numbers from industry sources. This is how it breaks up in dollar terms:

Zee Telefilms
$ 260 million
ESPN Star Sports
$ 230 million
$ 150 million
Sony Entertainment
$ 140 million
Ten Sports
$ 115 million

Interestingly, though Zee officials preferred not to respond to ESS' assertions, industry sources say Zee had also tabled a revenue share deal with DD before the bidding started. The offer is a Rs 12.5 million MG per ODI plus an 80:20 revenue share.

And speaking strictly legally, if it comes to that, Zee is likely to put forward the argument that it has produced live cricket in the US within the last two years, industry sources say.

For more on this story as it unravells, stay tuned.

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