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Writer: Noor Fathima Warsia - Wednesday, Feb 18,2009 7:13 AM

Situation grim between IPL & Max: BCCI seeks compensation from MSM (Sony)

The Indian Premier League (IPL) was seen as the media property that has been bucking any slowdown trend, and for many, Multi Screen Media that airs channels like Sony Entertainment Television, Max, Sab and Pix, had hit a gold pot with the property. The going, however, is not all that good in the second season.

IPL ran into several roadblocks from the start of the season, including a sponsorship issue with Big TV in the picture; the various disagreements between Reliance and MSM, post the last ICC World Cup, is widely known. Now, it is understood that Big TV has backed out from the deal completely. In the process, it has left an open ground for Airtel and an excuse for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to hold Multi Screen Media (MSM) responsible for the loss of sizeable monies.

It is understood that the BCCI has asked MSM to pay compensation for the loss, failing which it would reconsider its relations with the network in regards to the IPL.

Simply put, this casts a doubt on whether or not the IPL would be on any MSM channel this year, a loss that MSM’s CEO Kunal Dasgupta said was “not quantifiable”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the FICCI Frames 2009, Dasgupta informed that the current market situation had taken a deep hit on IPL, and sponsors didn’t have the right kind of monies to invest in the property. When asked on whether the problem between the BCCI and MSM is only over the trouble in finding the right sponsors, Dasgupta said, “Yes, because they have lost a lot of money and at present, not too many people are coming forward for the IPL. We have tapped many but they are just not interested since they do not have the monies.”

Dasgupta added that he expected the uncertainty between the BCCI and MSM to clear over the next week.

It is understood that the genesis of the problem is the Big TV versus Airtel sponsorship issue, wherein MSM had locked in Airtel as an on-air sponsor to which Big TV objected and simultaneously withdrew the on-ground deal that it was working at. It is understood that MSM has the option of making good the compensation by locking in Airtel as both on-air and on-ground sponsor, but the asking price is nearly double of what Airtel is agreeing to pay.

Meanwhile, there have been speculations in the industry on ESPN STAR Sports being one of the contenders that is talking to the BCCI for the IPL. However, ESPN STAR Sports officials couldn’t be contacted for comments at the time of filing this report.

Dasgupta was also candid in stating that the slowdown had hit all kinds of revenues for the broadcasters and that if the market didn’t turn around by September 2009, there would be a situation where networks would be either shutting down or merging their various business units.

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