BCCI invites 4-year India cricket TV rights bids

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: Bidding is officially open for cricket's "BIG ONE". The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) today invited tenders for the live television and radio broadcast rights for international matches to be played in India for the next four years.

This is an important point of note because the advertisement that appeared in today's papers inviting bids indicates that the bidding will be for rights for all international matches that will be played from September 2004 to 30 August 2007, i.e. for three years. Speaking to over phone from Kolkata, BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmia cleared the air on the matter saying this was only a bidding invitation and that when the tender document are issued, it would be for four years' rights. This validates the exclusive report filed yesterday by regarding the period for which the rights would be valid.

To see ad in full click on image "When the tender documents are given out, some changes would be made. The period of the agreement would be for four years, for example," Dalmiya said.The BCCI has fixed 2 pm on 14 August as the deadline to submit sealed bids at its office in South Mumbai. The bid document is available for Rs 50,000 and is non-refundable.

The BCCI's five-year agreement with Prasar Bharati for telecast rights of international and domestic matches conducted by the Board in India ends this September and was worth Rs 2.3 billion.

The Board has added a rider at the end of its notice which says, "the BCCI reserves the right in its discretion to cancel or amend the entire bidding process at any stage and to reject any or all bids without assigning any reason."

What has left some interested parties most perplexed however, is a rider that has been put in the tender invitation which says: "The bidding will be restricted to broadcasters. Only those entities having their own IN-HOUSE PRODUCTION (emphasis ours), telecasting units and channel network and have successfully telecast live and delayed international cricket events for a period of at least two years (not as a licencee) will be entitled to submit documents."

Going strictly by this, there are effectively only three entities that fall within the eligibility criteria --- national broadcaster Doordarshan, ESPN Star Sports and Ten Sports.

Among those disqualified as a fallout of this would be Sony Entertainment TV India (no in-house production), Harish Thawani's Nimbus (being a licencee and not a broadcaster), Zee Telefilms and Sahara India (no successful sports telecast within the last two years).

Asked to clarify this point, Dalmiya said various pre-conditions in the tender notice need not necessarily disqualify players like SET India. "Sony has telecast cricket and can also bid, I think," he said to a direct query pertaining to this.

Quizzed further as to whether parties like Sahara could also pitch in with a bid, Dalmiya cautiously said, "I am not sure whether Sahara can bid, but others like Doordarshan, ESPN-Star Sports and Ten Sports can certainly bid." It is a pertinent point that Sahara is the sponsor for the Indian cricket team.

Explaining the terms and conditions for bidding,Dalmiya made it clear that any media company that has sports channel(s) and decent experience in production of cricket-related programming could pitch in for the four-year telecast rights. "Whether production is outsourced or not should not be a problem for a bidder, I think," the BCCI chief added.

When contacted today evening, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma initially played with a straight bat and wanted to know whether the telecast rights also include the domestic cricket leagues like Ranji and Duleep Trophies also.

But then like Sachin Tendulkar, changing gears to up the tempo, Sarma said, "Offers from third parties (on collaborating on the telecast rights) notwithstanding, we would prefer to go it alone."

ESS and Nimbus have made offers to the Indian pubcaster Prasar Bharati, which manages DD and All India Radio, saying they would like to (independently) collaborate with Prasar Bharati on the telecast rights that would be beneficial for both the parties concerned. Prasar Bharati is yet to take final call on the offers, though it is expected that in a board meeting, slated for 10 August, this issue may be


Sarma also allayed fears that DD would not be able tocough up the type of money that is generally requiredto acquire sports properties. "Who says we would notbe able to bid? After all the bid amount is to be paid in instalments and we already have a budget of Rs 300 million this year for such a purpose."

DD, which had bagged the BCCI cricket telecast rights five years back, is said to have paid between Rs 2.3 billion and Rs 2.5 billion. This time round, BCCI expects the bid amount to be more than double that.

ESPN India MD RC Venkateish acknowledged the BCCI notice, but said, "No comments at this stage."

How much cricket are all these players actually fighting over is worth examining as well. According to information collated from the broadcast and sports management industries, four years rights would comprise 12 Test matches and 48 one-dayers. This works out to 60 days of Tests with four one-dayers per Test, on an average.

This season the BCCI has lined up a four-Test series against Australia in October-November to be followed by the two-Test series against South Africa.

A full series of three Tests and five one-day internationals against Pakistan have been pencilled in for February-March, 2004 after the team's return from the scheduled December-January tour of Bangladesh.

Predictably, there is a lot of cricket being squeezed into this four-year deal. And equally predictably (after all it is the Indian cricket board that is involved), clarity is what is lacking. Otherwise why would board supremo Dalmiya have to offer so many clarifications for the advertisement that went out today.

Of course, the rider the board added at the end of its notice gives Dalmiya the legal leeway to offer these clarifications. It reads thus: "BCCI reserves the right in its discretion to cancel or amend the entire bidding process at any stage and to reject any or all bids without assigning any reason."

The point made in yesterday's report needs reiterating here. When the India rights are finally given away, expect to see more of what may appear contradictory on the surface, lots of googlies and more than a few surprise twists and turns.

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