DD emerges as potential winner if rights case drags on

NEW DELHI: Even as a crucial Zee Telefilms board meeting on the cricket rights issue continued till late this evening, the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) was preparing itself for alternate arrangements if a legal battle for rights spilled over into the Australian tour that gets off the ground early October.

According to information available with, a majority of the board members of Zee Telefilms, till the time of writing this report, were not in favour of agreeing to a court proposal given last week to have a re-bid involving the company and ESPN-Star Sports.

Zee Telefilms, which had thought it had successfully pocketed the Indian cricket telecast rights for the next four years after it committed to fork out a massive $ 308 million, continued to feel the negative repercussions on the stock markets. The southward trek of the Zee scrip was unabated even today, a far cry from the high of over Rs 161 that it hit when it was announced about a week ago that it had emerged the highest bidder and BCCI would hand over the telecast rights once certain formalities were completed.

On the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Zee Tele stock closed the day at Rs 143.55, down by 3.95 per cent from the previous closing of Rs 149.45. On the National Stock Exchange too, the scrip closed lower at Rs 144.65, signifying a downtrend of 3.18 per cent from the earlier day's closing price of Rs 149.40. Interestingly, both at the BSE and the NSE, a significantly high volume of the stock was traded.

The board meet of Zee Tele is taking place to decide whether the company should go in for a re-bid or let the court settle issues like Zee's production capabilities and whether the tender documents were contravened to favour Zee, as has been alleged by ESS in its petition before the Bombay High Court.

Meanwhile, BCCI's supreme decision-making body has given its chief Jagmohan Dalmiya --- battling another court case challenging his future moves on becoming the patron-in-chief of the organisation --- the green signal to look for alternate platform(s) for telecast of the Australian series if the Zee-ESS legal tangle is not resolved by the first week of October when the first match is scheduled.

Speaking to over phone, Dalmiya said that there are some options available before the BCCI". He was however, silent on what they were, saying he would not be able to disclose them as it would be amount to contempt and pre-empting the court's decision.

"We have to think ahead to the Australians series and others too if the legal case does not get resolved, as much we would like it to get settled soon," Dalmiya said, pointing out that if the cricket matches were not telecast, BCCI would run into problems with the International Cricket Council.

"Forget the money, we would lose face if the matches are not televised as we are obliged to provide replays, etc to the third umpire and ICC may even penalise us heavily, apart from the likelihood of the Australian cricket board demanding compensation," Dalmiya tried to explain.

Though he refused to divulge any details, industry sources indicated that BCCI is looking at Ten Sports and Indian pubcaster Doordarshan as alternative platforms for telecast. However, KS Sarma, CEO of Prasar Bharati, managing DD, today said he hasn't yet got any formal or informal indicators from the BCCI in this regard.

And the name of Ten Sports cropping up in this regard is rather curious to say the least. More so in the light of the fact that the Dubai-based broadcaster's initial bid was the lowest at $ 115 million. The BCCI's entering into any sort of arrangement with Ten Sports at this stage looks to be fraught with legal complications, especially since neither Zee nor ESS are likely to sit quietly if anything of the sort were to happen.

Which therefore would leave only DD as a viable option for the BCCI in the eventuality of the legal process dragging on.

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