Even as ZEE Telefilms Limited, India's largest listed media and entertainment conglomerate,
on Sunday clinched the coveted four year cricket broadcasting deal of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), rival ESPN STAR Sports charged BCCI of being unfair in granting ZEE the contract and was said to be exploring the possibility of filing a legal suit.
Zee got the contract by accepting the BCCI condition to increase the bid price to $308 million (or approximately Rs 1,540 crore) for the exclusive rights to telecast cricket matches organized by the board in India.
While addressing the media in Chennai after the meeting of BCCI's marketing committee, Jagmohan Dalmiya, president, BCCI, said that ZEE will have to pay $20 million (approximately Rs 100 crore) to BCCI in the next two-three days, after which the BCCI will issue a letter of intent to ZEE. By September 15, ZEE will also have to provide a bank guarantee of $75 million. ZEE executives were confident that the formalities will be completed much ahead of the scheduled date.
Even as the ZEE camp is celebrating, some analysts expressed apprehensions as to whether ZEE has bitten off more than it can chew. ZEE Telefilms had reported an annual revenue of Rs 1,450 crore during financial year 2003-2004.
A ZEE release said, in lieu of the increase in bid price, BCCI has offered 144 days of international cricket, which is likely to go up to 160 days. This is against the earlier indicated offer of 108 days of international cricket for four years.
With ZEE finally emerging as the highest bidder, ESPN STAR Sports with its bid of $240 million has come a distant second, even as the latter argued that ZEE did not fulfill the qualifying criteria for bidding at the first place. Other contenders were Doordarshan at $150 million, Sony at $132 million and Ten Sports at $115 million.
Subhash Chandra, chairman Zee Network, said, "It is an overwhelming feeling to have finally been able to seal the deal, which I always believed from the day one, was legitimately ours."
Chandra added, "We did not get the schedule of cricket to be played until Saturday and so could share the schedule of payments with BCCI only on Sunday. Considering all aspects, we have accepted the new offer ensuring that the rights for the coveted series lie with us…."
ZEE said it was committed to its earlier offer of developing the domestic and international cricket along with BCCI. It also said that it would ensure that the best standards and production values were maintained for the telecast of these matches.
On getting the telecast rights, ZEE Telefilms has announced that it will be launching a full-fledged sports channel for the telecast of BCCI matches.
Expressing disappointment on BCCI's announcement, ESPN STAR Sports managing director Rik Dovey said, "I am disappointed to learn that ZEE had been even offered the cricket rights and that the BCCI had changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules set by BCCI themselves. "An ESPN STAR Sports spokesperson said that the channel was in touch with its lawyers and was exploring whether the BCCI decision could be challenged in the courts.
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