Excitements around the cricket broadcast rights involving Zee and STAR Sports-ESPN, comes to an end with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) deciding in favour of Zee Telefilms - the highest bidder for winning the sole broadcast rights for all international matches to be played in India over the next four years. Jagmohan Dalmiya, President, BCCI, announced the decision while briefing the media after a second round of talks with both the channels in Chennai.
Incidentally, Zee had hiked its bid to $ 308 million in the second round of talks with BCCI. According to Dalmiya, Zee Telefilms would be issued a letter of interest awarding the contract on the condition that the group would make a payment of $ 20 million as an initial deposit within the next three days and submit all the relevant details regarding bank guarantees. He further said that in case Zee Telefilms fails to make the deposit, ESPN would be selected.
Later Subash Chandra, Chairman, Zee Group, briefed the media on the meeting with the Board delegates. Delighted with the outcome, he said that the number of days of International Cricket played in India would be increased to 144 days to 160 days in a year and hence Zee had to increase the bid. He stated that the payment schedules would coincide with the International matches to be played in India. He also said that Zee would be in talks with DD for terrestrial rights. Speaking about the CAS scenario in Chennai, Chandra said that he would be in talks with the cable networks in Chennai to see how best to deal with the situation.
Zee has also notched up a few proposed names for its new Sports Channel. One of the chosen few will be selected following a public survey to identify the most favoured name. According to Chandra, in a bid to provide more exposure to domestic cricket, the new sports channel will also air 52-70 days of domestic cricket apart from the 144 days of International cricket currently proposed.
Countering the BCCI move, in a statement issued, Managing Director, ESPN STAR Sports, Rik Dovey, said, "I am disappointed to learn that Zee had been even offered the cricket rights and that the BCCI had changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules set by BCCI themselves."
The communiqué further quoted him, as saying: "Yesterday, we were asked by the BCCI, after they earlier met Zee, to provide clarifications on our original bid, which we did in light of their statement to us, and that such clarifications would be used by the Committee to conclude the process. The Tender Committee had clearly expressed that they wanted the bidding process to stop there. The committee had also confirmed that the members were impressed by our credentials and our track record was impressive and that the BCCI and ESPN STAR Sports had successfully partnered in the past."
However, as ESPN STAR Sports complained, the group was not given any opportunity for discussion, further clarification or to alter the bid. "We feel that today's proceedings clearly are a denial of natural justice and a violation by the BCCI of its own tendering process. ESPN STAR Sports will review its position," Dovey expressed.
However, ZEE would be awarded the rights later this week. It remains to be seen what will transpire in the next few days in view of the current circumstances. As of now, Zee is making plans to secure its arrangement with BCCI formally through the initial deposit of $ 20 million, which will procure the written confirmation of the telecast rights awarded to Zee for International Cricket played in India for the next four years.