Zee unlikely to agree to India cricket re-bid proposal

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: Zee Telefilms, which the Bombay High Court has given till Tuesday to decide whether it is agreeable to a re-bid process for the India cricket rights, is almost certain to reject the court's proposal when its board meets on Monday to discuss the issue.

While Zee Telefilms officials refused to comment on the issue saying the matter was sub judice, the feedback has received from a wide spectrum of industry sources indicates that Zee will inform the courts on Tuesday that it is not willing to accede to a revisit of the bid process and would argue its case on merits.

What this means is that the issue of Zee's eligibility to bid for India cricket rights, which was the argument around which ESPN Star Sports moved the courts, will in all probability be argued between the opposing counsels on Thursday. The case is being heard by a two-judge Bench of Chief Justice DS Bhandari and Justice DY further learns that Subhash Chandra's media company is unlikely to enter into any equity collaboration a foreign partner outside of content agreements. This more or less puts paid to any chance of the Zee Group and AOL Time Warner entering into a JV for the sports channel that is scheduled to launch on 2 October (the anniversary of Zee TV's launch).

Speaking of content, the question that comes up is around the sort of programming that will go into channel when it launches. As per indications, for the first three months after launch, Zee Sports (as the channel has been christened) will be primarily cricket-led.

And what happens if the legal tussle is not resolved by the time the Australian team lands in India in the first week of October? The argument looks like being that it is for the Board for Control of Cricket in India to sort out.

To recap, the Bombay High Court on Thursday morning proposed that if both parties were agreeable, ESS and Zee Network could submit fresh sealed bids to the Registrar General of the High Court on Wednesday. The inference being that when the bids were opened, the rights would automatically go to the highest bidder.

The court had stipulated that only ESS and Zee would be allowed to submit afresh and one rider the court has inserted was that there would be no further avenue of appeal if this route was accepted by the two claimants in the case.

As reported earlier by, Zee Telefilms has already made the initial payment of $20 million to BCCI for telecast rights of the India cricket matches.

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