Television

Beat that ESS tells Sony, announces OCSI rights acquisition

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NEW DELHI: It's war out there in the cricket broadcasting arena. Sony Entertainment Television may have ICC cricket, including the next two World Cups, but for sheer breadth of coverage, it is ESPN Star Sports (ESS) that has it.

ESS, a joint venture between ESPN Asia and Star Group, today announced the acquisition of telecast rights of all international cricket from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and England (the OCSI territories) for a period of five years from 2003 to 2008. Estimated cost of acquisition: around to $ 140 million. 

With the acquisition of 805 days of additional days of cricket telecast of 110 tests and one-day internationals in which India will feature in 17 tests and one-day series. The broadcast will go out to millions of fans across India and other countries that are covered by the footprint of the Asiasat 3 satellite. The total number of days of cricket with ESS now amount to 1,108 days of cricket till 2007, compared to about 153 days of cricket telecast rights that has been bagged by Sony Entertainment TV India till 2007 which includes the two cricket World Cups. 

ESS is also set to announce within two weeks new programming and marketing initiatives to exploit the total number of cricket telecast days it has at its disposal. 

"With this acquisition we hope to maintain the our leadership position (where telecasting of sports events are concerned) in India," Manu Sawhney, managing director of ESPN Software India told indiantelevision.com after a press conference in Delhi.

Though Sawhney put forward a defensive bat of "no comment" to a query on the acquisition cost of the additional cricket telecast rights, broadcasting industry sources indicated that it was around $ 140 million. The deal, signed on Saturday, has had numbers thrown up that put the cost even as high as $ 200 million. Compare that to the $ 24 million ESS paid out in September 1999 for the telecast rights for the four cricket boards Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe (England was not included as part of the OCSI bid then) from 2000 to 2004 and that gives some idea as to just how competitive this business is. Also, $ 24 million was seen as an astronomical figure to pay for cricket rights then. But then there were more competing bids what with ESS, the Zee Network, Vatsa Television Network and a number of air-time buyers like Stracon India and 21st Century Media all in the race. This time round only three players were seen as bidders for the rights - ESS, Sony Entertainment Television and Ten Sports.

"ESS has held an unparalleled leadership in sports broadcasting across Asia and India over the past six years. The acquisition of this multi-cricket broad deal demonstrates the continued long-term commitment of the shareholders of ESS (to the Indian and Asian market at large)," an ESS statement quoting Rik Dovey, managing director of ESS, said. 

The cricket rights include 203 days of cricket from Australia covering tours by India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, England, Zimbabwe and New Zealand; 145 days of cricket from South Africa, 207 days of cricket from England, including tours by India, Australia, SA and Pakistan; 120 days of cricket from New Zealand and 130 days of cricket from Zimbabwe. 

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