ESPN readies to bid for BCCI organised cricket

NEW DELHI: ESPN Software India, part of the Disney group, has expressed its keenness to bid for the telecast rights of cricket matches organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The rights come up for bidding later this year when a five-year agreement to this effect between BCCI and India's pubcaster Doordarshan comes to an end.

"Of course, we'd look out to acquire good content and would act accordingly when the (BCCI-organised) cricket rights come up for bidding," ESPN India MD R C Venkateish told indiantelevision when asked about ESPN and Star Sports' plans for Indian cricket.

Others who have expressed their willingness to enter the bidding process include Sony Entertainment TV India, which has rights to some major international cricket, including the next World Cup, Indian cricket team sponsor Sahara group and the present telecast rights holder DD.

Asked whether ESPN and its joint venture partner Star Sports in ESPN Star Sports ( a venture meant only for Asian sporting rights) would be willing to share the rights, hypothetically speaking, with DD if the government brings in a law mandating such a measure, Venkateish, said, "We'd cross the bridge when we come to it."

However, on the eve of the New Year, a senior SET India executive had told indiantelevision that the company would be willing to work out a deal with DD, on the lines of the one during the last World Cup, if it emerged successful in the BCCI cricket bidding process.

Last time round, the BCCI-organised cricket telecast rights had been bagged by DD for approximately Rs 2,500 million and the broadcast industry expects that this year the amount would almost double. Meanwhile, unable to persuade Dubai-headquartered Ten Sports to part with a larger slice of the forthcoming India-Pakistan cricket series, DD has been making noises that the government is poised to come out with a law that would mandate any telecast rights holder to share it with the pubcaster if it is of national importance for India, which includes cricket matches where the Indian team is participating.

Something to this effect was harped upon by Prasar Bharati CEO and the information and broadcast minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last Sunday in Chennai where both were present during the inauguration of the country's first private community radio service in Anna University.

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