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BIG TV walks out of IPL deal after spat with Sony

Rajesh S Kurup in Mumbai | February 13, 2009 01:34 IST

Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group-controlled BIG TV has withdrawn from partnering the Indian Premier League, alleging discrimination by the league's broadcast rights-holder Sony Entertainment Television.

BIG TV has communicated its decision to IPL CEO Sundar Raman, alleging that SET has decided to offer the contract to competitor Airtel DTH, though it quoted a lower price for on-air partnership, said sources close to the development.

The "discriminatory attitude of Sony while pricing the deals between BIG TV and the competitor was the reason for the company withdrawing from IPL," they added.

BIG TV had signed a Rs 137-crore deal last year with the Board of Control for Cricket in India for on-ground partnership (rights for ground-branding) and first right of refusal for on-air partnership. The company was also in talks to restructure this deal.

When contacted, a BIG TV spokesperson declined to comment.

Sony President Rohit Gupta also declined to comment on BIG TV's withdrawal and said this should be addressed to the BCCI.

However, Gupta said there was no discrimination on Sony's part. "We have even given 'first-look' (first right of refusal) privilege to other partners such as Vodafone, Hero Honda, Kingfisher, BIG TV and Citibank, among others. We abided by the terms and conditions of the agreement. There wasn't any kind of discrimination from our part."

IPL officials could not be contacted for comments.

Industry sources said that Sony was not offering exclusive on-air rights to advertisers for this IPL season. This meant that any DTH company could pick up on-air sponsorship during the IPL matches. As per the government norms, exclusivity of content is not allowed on the DTH platform and a channel is bound to provide its feed to all the DTH operators.

BIG TV's on-air deal with Sony was in the range of Rs 32 crore for 2009 season and Rs 30 crore for the previous season.

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