ESPN-Star Sports is willing to match Zee Telelfilms’ bid of $260 million for the rights to telecast cricket matches conducted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in the country for the next four years.
“We surely have the appetite and will be willing to match the price if the BCCI desires us to do so,” RC Venkatesh, managing director of ESPN-Star Sports, told Business Standard.
ESPN had bid $230 million, but had also expressed its willingness to increase it to around $300 million if BCCI extended the offer to five years from four.
Yesterday, BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya said the board would take a final decision after further deliberations and had asked for some clarifications from the various bidders.
ESPN has publicly said Zee does not qualify for the bidding process as it does not meet the board’s criterion of two years’ experience in telecasting international cricket events.
Zee executives, however, deny the charge, pointing out that they have telecast international cricket matches in countries like the UK since 1995.
The broadcaster which manages to win the four-year telecast contract will get satellite as well as terrestrial rights (which it will have to offer to Doordarshan).
The contract will also include international satellite rights, telephony rights (including cellular) and Internet rights.
However, it does not include in-stadium rights, which have already been farmed out. The board has offered 27 days of cricket in a year under the bid documents.
The Zee group sprung a surprise last week when it emerged as the highest bidder for the cricket rights in India. The other bidders included Sony TV at $140 million, Ten Sports at $115 and Doordarshan.
Zee executives pointed out that the government laws clearly stipulated that if there was any revision of bids, the highest bidder would be given first priority.
Given the lucrative nature of the contract, which is sure to drive up the winning broadcaster’s revenues both from advertising and subscriptions, the hectic bidding doesn’t come as a surprise.
What makes the rights of matches in India more attractive is the fact that in the next 15 months most of the key matches will be held within the country. This includes the tour by world champions Australia in October, followed by South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.