DD ups Commonwealth 2006 rights bid to $ 400,000

NEW DELHI: The race for the telecast rights for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games has taken an interesting twist with Indian pubcaster Prasar Bharati increasing its offer, while newly-started Zee Sports also lunging for the rights, is offering a higher price.

For the organisers of the Melbourne 2006 Games, India is an important market in Asia because of its size and also the fact that New Delhi would play host to the 2010 Games.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Prasar Bharati CEO KS Sarma said, "We have increased our offer twice. The last price quoted is $ 400,000 ($A532,000) and that?s the maximum we can go."

Initially, Prasar Bharati had offered $220,000 for the Games? rights. Pointing out that Prasar Bharati, which manages Doordarshan and All India Radio, is yet to hear from the Commonwealth games management on the offer, Sarma was confident that the pubcaster would not be on the losing side.

"If somebody else gets the rights for India (hinting at Zee Sports? bid), as per a legislation being proposed by the government, the national broadcaster would anyway get the terrestrial rights. So, we are not unduly worried," Sarma said, taking an equally tough stance on the rights issue as the Games organisers.

According to a report in Australia?s The Age, though larger sums of money have been paid for other television deals - Channel Nine, reportedly, paid $50 million for the Australian rights - the Indian deal is one of the most important for Games organisers because of the huge audience it can deliver to Games sponsors.

Organisers have labelled the ongoing negotiations with the Indian pubcaster as "a face-off." In December, broadcasters described the Melbourne 2006 asking price of $ 600,000 as "brazen" and "extortionate".

Though the Zee Sports? bid is said to be higher than that of Prasar Bharati, it stands a slim chance of bagging the rights as Melbourne 2006 chairman Ron Walker has been quoted by international media as saying he would sell the rights to a free-to-air network in India.

"I'm not going to pay TV; it will be a mixture of both, but it will be more free to air," he was quoted as explaining. While Zee Sports has been positioned as a pay channel, DD and AIR are free-to-air. However, when contacted by Indiantelevision.com, Zee Sports refused to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, Walker, according to news reports from Singapore, yesterday conceded the extensive broadcast deal with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), brokered over the weekend, was not as financially lucrative as he had hoped, but said the wide reach of the telecasts into non-Commonwealth countries more than made up for the "small" budget shortfall.

Footage from the Melbourne Commonwealth Games will be seen by more than 1.4 billion people free-to-air in 18 countries in the region, including Afghanistan, East Timor, Mauritius, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Laos and Vietnam, adding value to sponsorships and creating more trade and tourism opportunities.

It is understood that M-2006 will receive about $400,000 from the ABU for the rights. For the first time, Commonwealth Games footage would be shown in Indonesia, a country that didn't take the Athens Olympics because of high costs.

Walker said the final television broadcast deals with India, host of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and Canada were being negotiated, with India's agreement expected within days.

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