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Cricket bidding season heats up

21-June-2004
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Cricket bidding season heats up

After Asia Cup and Holland ODI series, broadcasters are now aiming for the five-year telecast rights to the international cricket matches in India. ESPN-STAR Sports, Ten Sports, SET Max and Doordarshan are all in the race for the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) matches to be played over the next five years in India. Only last week, ESPN-Star Sports bagged the exclusive telecast rights to Asia Cup to be played in Sri Lanka, while SET Max acquired the Holland ODI series.

In this cricket-bidding season, industry sources indicate that broadcasters are going to go all out for the India series. Bids up to Rs 600-700 crore are expected for the five-year exclusive broadcast rights, according to sources. But, broadcasters are playing it low. Executive vice-president and business head of SET Max Rajat Jain told eFE: “Rs 600-700 crore sounds quite high. I’m sure there will be a significant escalation from the previous time (Doordarshan got the rights for around Rs 270 crore five years ago), but it may not go up 100 per cent.”

Even Prasar Bharati CEO K S Sarma said that the acquisition cost for the BCCI series won’t be as high as Rs 600-700 crore.

ESPN Software managing director R C Venkateish didn’t want to hazard a guess, not even on when bidding could take place. Ms Sharmista Rijhwani, managing director, Taj Television India Pvt Ltd, which runs Ten Sports, recently told this newspaper: “Of course, after bringing the historic India tour of Pakistan to the Indian viewer, we are aggressively bidding to acquire rights for all upcoming cricketing properties which include the India series....”

According to Mr Jain of SET Max, “Everyone will go for the BCCI rights. That’s premium.” But on whether his channel would be aggressive in bidding for the five-year India rights, he said: “One has to be reasonable. It should make business sense at the end of the day.” Having said that, he believes that “it can’t get bigger than cricket in India.” Also, that a consistent offering of good programmes (read cricket in this case) results in a steady growth in the subscriber base. As McCann Universal president Chintamani Rao pointed out, “cricket is an established spectator sport in India,” with hardly any competition from anywhere.

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