Television

Zee Sports all ready to play games

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NEW DELHI: Zee Sports formally announced its launch on Wednesday amidst tough competition and with a promise to be by, for and of the Indians.

Pointing out that ad revenue from sports programming is presently pegged at Rs. 5 billion, Zee Sports CEO Punit Goenka said, What was missing was content relevant to the average Indian apart from cricket. Zee Sports aims to bridge the gap by providing a programming mix that is entertaining, relevant and catering to our core viewer base.

Zee Sports, beaming off PAS 10 satellite, is a 24-hour encrypted channel, which will be sold to consumers as part of the Zee Turner bouquet. The individual price of the channel was not revealed here during a press conference here.

With a war chest of Rs. 1,500 million to be spent over three years, Zee Sports will, however, have to learn to live with the Indian crickets telecast rights fiasco.

One of the first few questions shot by presspersons after the launch announcement was whether the rights controversy would have an effect on the future prospects of the sports channel.

A guarded Zee Sports EVP Himanshu Mody said, As an operational strategy, it (the telecast controversy) has had a positive effect. We had to think a lot harder.

The journalists persisted: how could a sports channel in India roll in the moolah without live cricket as rights of most big events have already been snapped up?

Mody, who oversees corporate strategy, finance and programme acquisitions at Zee Sports, deftly fended the bouncer: Theres lot of (cricket) rights coming up for renewal outside the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over the next eight to 10 months. Wed be contenders for those.

However, Mody made it clear that all future bids, including Indian crickets, would be made more reasonably without going overboard.

We will evaluate our options later this month with our lawyers, he added when asked whether Zee would again make a grab for Indian cricket if BCCI invites fresh bids

Zee Sports parent company Zee Telefilms bid a humungous $ 308 million for four years of telecast rights of Indian cricket last year after which the whole episode went into a tailspin and inside the precincts of courts. The judiciary now has freed BCCI to re-visit the telecast rights issue.

Presently without a cricket property, Zee Sports is looking at working as an incubator and, in the long run, help in the development of various Indian sports.

We do have plans for creating sporting properties and work closely with various (Indian) sports federations, Zee Sports COO Gary Lovejoy said. The channel is one of the few contenders for the telecast rights of Indian soccer and the last date for making a dash for the rights was today.

During a career in broadcasting spanning 28 years, Lovejoy has worked on six football World Cups, three rugby World Cups and seven Olympics, apart from other global events.

Zee Sports present programming line-up includes shows like Adventure Sports, live derby, beach volleyball, World Snooker Championship, English premier league classic, Inside Grand Prix and Motor Trials.

Boxes needed to access the digital Zee Sports are being seeded in the various segments of the Indian market. By the end of the month, the channel would be visible in the metros like Delhi and Mumbai, channel executives said.

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