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Zee wins 'neutral venue' media rights for $ 219.15 million

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NEW DELHI: The numbers are going beyond believable as far as India cricket is concerned. Subhash Chandra's Zee Telefilms has secured the rights for the latest money-mopping plan the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has pulled out of its cupboard --- for matches played by India at neutral venues (non-ICC member countries) over the next five years.

And the winning bid: a whopping $219.15 million (average of $ 8.77 million per match) for 25 matches spread over the next five years.

The 25 matches will involve mainly Pakistan as the opposition, but will also include top cricket countries like Australia, England and West Indies. With this, the minimum bid guarantee of the BCCI has crossed the $1 billion mark all told.

Zee Telefilms also becomes the rights holder for radio and broadband in non ICC member countries where matches may be played. It would also negotiate with pubcaster Doordarshan independently for a terrestrial feed.

"This cricket property puts us on a strong wicket and would help us in our growth," Zee Sports business head Himanshu Mody told Indiantelevision.com, adding that "the loss of India cricket rights have been more than made up".

The other bidders in the fray for the overseas rights were ESPN Star Sports (disqualified for bidding below the floor price), Nimbus and Sahara One Media & Entertainment.

The media rights for this latest piece of the India cricket pie will be inaugurated with the two-match Indo-Pakistan limited over series that will be held in Abu Dhabi later this month. The presenting sponsor is Indian real estate major DLF and the ground rights for this series was secured by PDM International for $ 3.61 million.

Pointing out that Rs 900 million are expected to be generated from these two matches, BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi said 50 per cent of the proceeds will go to Pakistan for earthquake relief fund, while the rest will be donated to the Indian Prime Minister's relief Fund.

Pakistan Cricket Board's director cricket operations Salim Altaf, who was present during the opening of the financial bids as an independent observer, also exchanged documents with BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah, signifying an understanding between the two countries for playing matches under a bi-lateral agreement.

The 25 matches are to be played in places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Holland, Lords, Oval and Birmingham in England, Toronto, New York, Tristate Area, Houston, Chicago, Palo Alto, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

According to BCCI's Modi, negotiations are on with the respective countries for venues. All the matches will also be recognized by the International Cricket Council and form part of India's playing calendar.

HOW THE DIFFERENT BIDS STACKED UP

While Zee is likely to end up paying a total of at least $ 219.15 million over a period of five years on an average price of $ 8.77 million per match, the break-up of payment year-wise varies.

According to documents circulated by the BCCI today at a press conference here, Zee bid $ 5.04 million for the first year, $ 6.03 million for the second year, $ 6.66 million for the third year, $ 8.10 million for the fourth year and $ 18 million for the last year.

Similarly, the other bidders too had bid separately for every year. ESS had bid $ 2.86 million for each of the five years.

Nimbus bid $ 5 million for the first year, $ 6 million for the second year, $ 7 million for the third year, $ 8 million for the fourth year and $ 14 million for the fifth year with an average of $ 8 million per match.

Sahara's bids were $ 5.32 million, $ 5.41 million, $ 6.40 million, $ 7.21 million and $ 10.90 million for each of the five years where on an average per match was costing $ 7.048 million.

On being asked how does it feel to be on the losing side, Nimbus' chairman Harish Thawani shot back, "Seeing the winner's bids, I feel we got the rights to India cricket cheap. I wish Zee all the best."

Nimbus had bagged the four-year rights of Indian cricket for a whopping $ 612 million, beating the likes of Zee Telefilms ($ 513 million and ESS.

DRAMA BEFORE THE ANNOUNCEMENT

Can anything related to cricket and BCCI be bereft of drama? Probably not.

Before the media was apprised of the transparent way in which the BCCI conducts its affairs, especially those relating to bidding, journalists were kept waiting at a five-star hotel here as a closed-door meeting of cricket officials and representatives of bidding companies took place.

Reportedly, there were two adjournments when frantic calls were made by some of those present in the meeting to their bosses.

It seems there was some confusion regarding the way prices of every one year of the five-year contract period were to be quoted and calculated.

When that got sorted out, discussions took place on the formal protests lodged by Zee Telefilms and Nimbus relating to the submission of financial bids by Sahara yesterday in Mumbai.

While Modi reiterated that there were "no irregularities" in the Sahara bid, Zee Sports' Mody smiled away questions on yesterday's protests. "We don¡'t have any issue now," he said, while sharing the dais with BCCI officials.

While making a grand exit from the press conference, BCCI's Modi said, 'These rights will ensure coverage of matches played by India in non-ICC member countries as well. Professionalizing this aspect of Indian cricket management will make the sport, especially the Indian game, accessible to Indian communities across the globe, including the non ICC member countries."

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