Zee sets 2 October as sports channel launch date

NEW DELHI: Zee Telefilms CMD Subhash Chandra today said that the network proposes to launch a sports channel on 2 October (the day on which, in 1993 Zee TV first went on air), even as he expressed confidence of the company bagging the Indian cricket telecast rights for the next four years.

Addressing a press conference in Chennai this afternoon, soon after meeting the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials on the cricket telecast rights issue, Chandra said, "Zee's production capabilities are unquestionable."



He was responding to a question whether Zee Telefilms, as a company, fulfills a BCCI tender clause that states bidders should have experience in production of cricket and sporting events and an in-house production facility and capabilities.

Taking the game into the opponent's den - in this case ESPN-Star Sports, which too has bid for the rights, but is placed below Zee in money terms - Chandra added at the press conference that no other channel has done its own production, hinting that most of the time such activities are outsourced to strategic partners.

Though Chandra expressed the hope that Zee would be awarded the cricket telecast rights - " we are confident" - he did not divulge the name, the proposed channel would sport. In all probability, a Zee stable channel ought to sport the Zee brand name, unless it turns out to be one stitched together in collaboration with some foreign partner.

Turner Broadcasting Asia, a Time-Warner group company, has placed a proposal before Zee for a collaborative effort on a sports channel should the Indian network go ahead with its plans after bagging one of the biggest prizes in the cricketing world - BCCI-organised cricket.

Asked whether the bid of $ 260 million for the BCCI rights, plus additional sum for development of domestic cricket, is on the higher side, Chandra said, "The Rs 1,200 crore (Rs 12 billion) bid for four years is a very viable figure." He, however, refused to give a year-wise break-up of the total bid amount saying that those are business plans, which could not be disclosed at this moment.

Still, Chandra added that there would be three streams of revenue to be exploited by the successful rights holder. The three streams are advertising revenue, domestic subscription revenue and revenue generated from selling the rights in the global market on various platforms.

According to Chandra, the network is in talks with several cricketers to be the brand ambassador for the proposed sports channel. Over the past few days, Zee channels have been airing sound bytes from former Indian cricketers on why Zee, as a domestic media giant, should get the BCCI telecast rights and not the other contenders.

In a presentation to the BCCI, Zee Telefilms, after having pushed its case stressing on its reach and financial muscle and what an association with it could result in, has said at one point: it's time for BCCI to be acknowledged among the "Global sports brand elites". The reference was to the global brand positioning of the BCCI on the lines of a PGA Tour in golf, ATP Tour as in lawn tennis, FIFA as in football and the Olympics.

Elaborating on its plans for the development of cricket in association with the BCCI, Zee has said that in the following areas it would be helpful:

-Advising and help in implementing permanent solutions for TV production coverage at local stadiums

-Help in developing state associations and teams as brands

-Assist in creation of affinity based fan following representing city/ state

-Maximising exposure for local partners and sponsors 

And, why is Zee is best placed to do this ? Because of the following:

-Zee is the only network with regional & global coverage for Indians

-Zee has the largest in-house production facility in India

-Zee's broadcast center in Noida (on the outskirts of Delhi) is the largest in SAARC

-10 outdoor broadcast vans, 84 cameras, 30 edit machines, 23 graphic machines, 20 VSATs.

-Over 500 people experienced in technical & production areas

Of course, Zee has also indicated in its presentation that it has enough experience of producing and telecasting cricket events as also other sporting events. The bottomline of the whole presentation: BCCI and Zee would together make world-class global brands, which are Made in India.

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