Zee, ESPN make a grab for cricket rights again

NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: The battle for grabbing the coveted telecast rights to Indian cricket has started. According to industry estimates, ESPN Star Sports has bid $325 million, while SET Max's quote is in the region of $250 million and Prasar Bharati's $225 million.

Though industry and Indian cricket board sources couldn't confirm it, but Zee Telefilms is said to have bid higher than others.



The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had called for bids to the telecast rights of approximately 130 days of cricket between October 2005 to September 2009. The bid, which closed today, would open in a week's time.



The BCCI had set a floor price of $2.14 million per day of cricket, totaling to a minimum of $278.2 million for 130 days. This means that only ESS and Zee Telefilms have bid higher than the floor price.

However, BCCI had expected to earn over $400 million from the sell of this over four-year property.

Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India chief executive officer Kunal Dasgupta was not available for comment as he is currently in London. Senior executives from other broadcasters also could not be contacted.

Meanwhile, according to broadcast industry sources, a senior Zee representative is understood to have met up with former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya in South Africa recently during the Africa-Asia series to patch up the differences, which had cropped up after the contentious last round of bidding last year.

Subsequently, BCCI amended its eligibility criteria whereby it said that bidders need not have obtained licensing from the rights holders directly. It could be through an agency also, which means Zee could qualify.

However, a senior BCCI official told this evening that Zee's eligibility criteria is not clear.

In the past during the court cases involving the telecast rights to domestic cricket, Zee had argued that it had telecast matches on its international feed. Incidentally, Zee TV and Zee Sports also recently telecast the Afro-Asia Cup cricket series, which is an ICC-recognised event.

The BCCI official, without revealing any financial details, also admitted that the bids could be lower than expected as private broadcasters are wary of a proposed legislation whereby terrestrial rights of the matches would have to shared with pubcaster Doordarshan on a mandatory basis.

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