Zee Telefilms agreed to the increased bid after BCCI offered 144 days of international cricket, which is likely to go up to 160 days, as against the earlier offer of 108 days for four years.
"We are giving Zee the contract provided they fulfill certain conditions. They have to deposit $20 million in the next two to three days after which there will be a letter of intent issued," said BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya. The other conditions include furnishing of a bank guarantee for $75 million by September 15, 2004.
The battle for the most lucrative deal in Indian sports telecast history is far from over, though. Expressing its displeasure over the award of rights, ESPN-Star Sports said it was exploring all options, including taking legal recourse.
"I am disappointed to learn that Zee has been even offered the cricket rights and that the BCCI had changed the entire process of bidding in violation of rules which it had itself set," said ESPN-Star Sports managing director Rik Dovey.
That wasn't stoping Zee from celebrating. "It is an overwhelming feeling to have finally been able to seal the deal," said Zee Network chairman Subhash Chandra. Zee is launching a separate sports channel with an investment of Rs 150-200 crore (Rs 1.5-2 billion) on October 2 to coincide with its 12th year of operations.
"A sports channel was the only missing link in our network and with this launch we will have a complete network, offering sports, children's programming, general entertainment, news and movies. We shall announce the name of the sports channel tomorrow," said Chandra.
Zee may also unveil a commentary team for the matches which will include former cricketers and other cricketing experts. Said Chandra: "We will add glamour in our own way. We have received proposals from various cricketers who want to endorse our channel and we will sign with some of them shortly," said Chandra.
Zee Telefilms plans to distribute cricket into non cable networked homes via Prasar's network. "We have an agreement in principle with Prasar Bharti for the distribution. The advertising contract will also be awarded to Prasar Bharti, if they promise more revenue than we can garner through our own marketing efforts," added Chandra.
ZTL will outsource the production to an outside company initially and is in talks with about five production companies.
It is eyeing three streams of revenue --- domestic cable subscription, advertising and sale of distribution rights to syndicates abroad. It hopes to leverage its existing relationship with Turner International Asia Pacific to launch the sports channel in the Asia-Pacific region.
ESPN-Star Sports complained that it was not given an opportunity to alter its bid.
"In the few minutes we had with the BCCI committee today, we stressed that we continue to be the highest legitimate eligible bidder. 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 said.
He added: "We were informed that BCCI had just given Zee the opportunity to increase their bid and that providing Zee met certain conditions, not all of which were disclosed to ESPN Star Sports, Zee would be awarded the rights later this week."
Pointing out that the BCCI tender committee was satisfied with the credentials of ESPN Star Sports, Dovey said, "Today we were asked to attend a meeting to provide what was described as further clarification. However, when we met the committee we were informed that the BCCI tender committee had changed its position from yesterday."
Any arbitration in the future regarding the contract will be within the Mumbai high court's jurisdiction.
ZEE: Big plans
Zee Telefilms will also start a sports channel, which was missing from its network. Launch date is Oct 2
It also plans to distribute cricket into non-cable networked homes via Prasar Bharati's network
Zee says the advertising contract will also go to Prasar Bharati if it can promise more revenue than Zee can garner on its own
ESPN: Few options
The sports telecaster says it's a violation by the BCCI of its own tendering process. Is keeping legal options open