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Zee scores with TEN Sports deal
The Challenger series those rights are with Zee and (below) thePakistan- West Indies series telecast on TEN Sports

New Delhi, Nov. 13: Zee Telefilms has acquired a 50 per cent stake in TEN Sports in a deal that creates a formidable combine in sports television.

Under an agreement announced today, Zee picked up the stake in the Dubai-based sports channel for around Rs 256 crore. Taj TV, which owns the TEN Sports brand, had been negotiating with other companies as well.

Zee Sports’s business head Himanshu Mody confirmed a controlling stake had been bought. Zee will have four of the seven members on TEN Sports’s board of directors. He also indicated plans are being drawn up for the combine.

The acquisition comes after the Subhash Chandra-controlled Zee sought to take over UNI last month. The issue is in court now.

In a statement on the TEN Sports deal, Chandra said he was certain that the joint partnership would result in a “mutually beneficial relationship”. TEN Sports’s promoter Abdul Rahman Bukhatir said joining hands with Zee would take his channel to “unprecedented heights”. “Ultimately, I see our partnership as one which will change the industry,” Bukhatir added.

According to PTI, Zee vice-chairman Jawahar Goel will take over as TEN Sports chairman in a year, replacing Bukhatir. The post will be rotated between the two companies. Chris McDonald will continue as CEO, he added.

The possibility of a merger of TEN Sports and Zee Sports is not ruled out, Mody said, adding teams from both sides will meet in eight to 10 days to discuss ways to align the functioning of channels.

Industry is hoping the Zee Sports-TEN Sports deal will lessen the cutthroat competition for broadcasting rights to cricket tournaments and bring down the high rates that channels often pay for them.

Last week, Zee and TEN Sports had bid separately for rights to International Cricket Council’s (ICC) matches from 2007 to 2015. There is speculation that the winning offer could touch the $1-billion mark.

The current ICC broadcasting deal with Global Cricket Corporation — a Rupert Murdoch venture — expires after the 2007 World Cup. If $1 billion is indeed paid, it would be almost twice the $532 million that Murdoch’s firm had stumped up to clinch the current rights, later resold.

Zee Sports and TEN Sports hold rights to several events. The combine will be particularly strong in cricket. Zee holds the rights to all matches organised by the Board of Control of Cricket in India in neutral venues till 2010. TEN Sports has rights to events organised by the Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies cricket boards.

Zee Sports also holds rights to some events in Indian football, Davis Cup tennis, Women’s Tennis Association and Italian Serie A matches. TEN Sports has bid successfully with the organisers of UEFA Champions League soccer in Europe, WWE wrestling in America, US Open tennis and World Cup hockey.

“We can share each other’s products,” Mody said, hinting he expects cost savings from the alliance. Both sides insist the combine will be “a true pan-Asian player” in sports broadcasting.

Like Zee, TEN Sports has a strong presence in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

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