With the Soccer World Cup just a month away Indian football fans sure have a reason to be concerned. The television rights for the tournament have still not been awarded. Or have they been? No one is confirming as yet neither are they denying. After the collapse of the beleaguered Kirch Group of Germany last week things went into a tizzy. It was heard that Stracon, Sidhartha Ray’s company selling the rights in India, had given up.
Sources in media circle tell us that the price being asked for by Stracon was way above anyone’s expectations and with the majority of the sports programming hitherto being the monopoly of one channel, ESPN Star Sports, Sidhartha found it difficult to get any takers for the astronomical sum. But help it seems has come in the form of competition. TEN Sports, which recently launched its sports channel in India is heard to be the most favourite to win the race after ESPN Star sports refused to dole out the money. Sony TV is also in the fray but Rajat Jain, VP, Set Max told exchange4media that he wasn’t sure about the latest. “ We have heard from reports that TEN has bagged it but it hasn’t been informed to us officially.”
So what was the asking price? Sources say that Stracon was asking for a whopping US$ 40 Million for the rights when they started selling the tournament a few months back. At that time only ESPN Star and Sony were in the fray and the huge asking price deterred them. TEN sports entered the fray last month but by then Stracon had given up selling as the date of tournament was fast approaching and Kirch had already paid the minimum guarantee for the rights to FIFA without generating proportional revenues from selling the rights.
Given that the Abdur Rehman Bukhatir promoted TEN sports has entered India despite the huge lead being enjoyed by ESPN Star it surely is possible that they might have bagged the rights. It would make all the sense for them. Entering the highly competitive Indian market without any Live India cricket had made things difficult for them but this development, if it is true, will surely bring in its share of visibility and revenues for the channel, both from advertisers and subscribers. At what cost though is unclear as yet. Sources at TEN are not ready to confirm anything as yet.
With the World Cup cricket rights gone and now the soccer World Cup rights ESPN Star surely needs to pull up its act. The channel has rights for all India cricket played abroad till the middle of next year and you can bet your last dollar on the fact that bagging those rights for the future will not be as easy with two very serious players, Sony and TEN now in the fray.