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BCCI changes, telecast tussle stays

Calcutta, Dec. 11: The cricket board may sport a new look, but court cases and controversies continue to dog the Sharad Pawar-led dispensation.

First, TEN Sports’s petition challenging the government decision to make sharing of cricket telecast by private broadcasters mandatory with Doordarshan comes up for hearing tomorrow in Bombay High Court.

Second, there is a cloud of uncertainty on whether the board can draw enough bids when it floats fresh tenders tomorrow for telecast rights to matches featuring India for the next few years.

TEN Sports and Sony, the two broadcasters who had participated in the last two bidding processes of the Jagmohan Dalmiya-led board, may stay away this time.

“We’ll take a call once we see the bid document and the conditions laid down,” said N.P. Singh, chief operating officer of SET India that runs the Sony channels.

Officials of TEN Sports did not appear too keen on bidding for the rights.

Sources said the two networks were reluctant to bid for two reasons. One, they believe the clause of forced sharing of the feed with DD robs these rights of business sense. Two, they suspect Zee will walk away with the rights, as it did for the India-Sri Lanka Tests recently because of its perceived proximity to the new board.

Besides, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced that it would sell the rights for the direct-to-home (DTH) platform separately. Only Zee has a DTH service.

TEN Sports and Sony did not bid for the Lanka Test series rights, citing short notice as the reason. The board, prodded by Delhi High Court, completed the tendering process in a single day, on December 1, with the participants being Zee Sports, ESPN STAR Sports and Nimbus Sport.

Private sports broadcasters ' Zee, ESPN STAR, TEN Sports and Sony ' are meeting the information and broadcasting ministry tomorrow to discuss the guidelines ' issued on November 11 ' for mandatory sharing of all cricket matches featuring India, at home and abroad, with DD.

“We will repeat our request for making at least the Test matches exclusive properties and allowing the existing agreements to be honoured,” said R.C. Venkateish, managing director of ESPN Software India.

“We have requested the ministry to make the policy prospective rather than retrospective,” he added.

TEN Sports, whose petition is scheduled to come up before the bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice A.S. Oka, has informed the court that it has acquired telecast rights till 2007 from the cricket boards of Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as Sky Broadcasting by paying over $100.8 million.

TEN Sports has said it had sold around 90 per cent of its advertising inventory for the forthcoming India-Pakistan series by November 11, when the guidelines were issued, and sharing the feed now with DD would amount to a breach of trust with its clients.

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