In a last-ditch effort to bag the telecast rights for cricket matches organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), ESPN-STAR today said it would raise its bid by Rs 330 crore ($73 million) provided it was given the rights for five years instead of the four mentioned in the BCCI tender.
The sports telecaster, according to available information, has bid $30 million lower for the rights than the Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee TV. (See chart.) But if today’s deal sweetener is taken into account, the ESPN-Star Sports bid could turn out to be higher by about $43 million. The BCCI has not communicated its response on the offer so far and is expected to take a decision on the matter tomorrow.
Reacting to the ESPN-Star Sports offer, Ashish Kaul, senior vice-president, Zee TV, said: “ESPN-Star Sports cannot alone be given a chance to revise its bid. If there is a plan to revise bids, we will have to be given a chance.”
Kaul pointed out that, as per the agreement, if the BCCI wanted to revise bids, it could be done only after the rights were awarded. He said any such negotiations would also have to be conducted with the highest bidder.
The biggest sporting property ever put on the block in the country has generated intense rivalry in the last few days. ESPN-Star Sports has alleged that Zee TV does not meet the bidding criteria as it does not have any experience of sports telecasts.
“Zee has no experience of telecasting international cricket. No first-class cricket was telecast from Kathmandu, where Zee had long-term rights till 2002. Although Zee has telecast some live and delayed international cricket events outside India, it has done so as a licensee, and never as a host broadcaster. Nor has it produced the feed of the event in question,” an ESPN-Star Sports executive said.
Zee TV, on its part, insists that it meets all the requirements set out by the BCCI to bid for the telecast rights.