ZEE Telefilms on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that it has decided against re-bidding for the BCCI telecast rights. & #BANNER1 & # This means that the home-grown television major will now be locked in a protracted legal battle with rival channel ESPN STAR Sports.
The Bombay High Court bench consisting of Chief Justice DS Bhandari and Justice DY Chandrachud is expected to begin hearing arguments on Thursday.
For the uninitiated, this development comes after ESPN STAR Sports filed a petition at the Bombay High Court challenging a BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India)decision to award ZEE a four year exclusive telecast rights of all official cricket matches to be played in India. ESPN STAR Sports has argued that BCCI has violated its own rules in awarding the contract.
Last Thursday, the Bombay High Court had proposed that the two contestants - ZEE and ESPN STAR Sports - for the BCCI telecast rights should opt for either a rebid or let the court decide the issue.
While ESPN was ready for a rebid, ZEE had told the court that it needed to place the issue before its board of directors, and promised that it would convey its decision by Tuesday (September 14).
Sources said, ZEE's decision to fight it out at the courts is driven by the channel's belief that the 4-year telecast contract is a ZEE property now - especially in the absence of any court injunctions.
"Lawyers have apparently briefed Subhash Chandra, chairman, ZEE, that the telecast rights are firmly in the company's possession. The fact that ZEE has paid the first installment of $20 million to BCCI has made the channel's ownership rights very clear, the lawyers have said..." sources in Mumbai pointed out.
The ZEE Telefilms board, which had met at length on Monday, had also firmly decided against re-bidding, a ZEE release said. ZEE has apparently briefed its legal team to fight the matter out both in the Bombay High Court and, if necessary, in the Supreme Court as well.
On another front, ZEE is apparently engaged in mobilising political support. There have been reports that ZEE might raise the issue of BCCI sacrificing "national" interests and lobby the Parliament through MPs, who are willing to support its cause.
The company, reportedly, is also keen to try and stall the BCCI move to give the telecast rights for the first India-Australia series, slated to begin on October 6, to national broadcaster Doordarshan.
Meanwhile, rumours of ZEE's upcoming partnership with Ten Sports has proved to be unfounded. Ten Sports officials confirmed on Tuesday that the channel has set up its own in-house distribution team and is managing the distribution side of the business independently.
"Any rumors of the channel joining or aligning with the Zee Turner bouquet or forming a distribution JV with Zee are completely false. Any pricing offers made by ZEE's distribution team or its distributors, involving the selling of the Ten Sports channel as a part of an alignment with the ZEE's bouquet or ZEE's sports channel are baseless," a channel release said.
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