Jan 29, 2009

Business - R-ADAG's Big TV likely to call off IPL deal

Ratna Bhushan & Meenakshi Verma Ambwani

NEW DELHI: Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG)-owned Big TV’s four-year Rs 137-crore deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India
(BCCI) as Indian Premier League (IPL)’s exclusive DTH partner is being renegotiated and may be called off.

Big TV has raised objections to its rival Bharti Airtel’s DTH brand picking up on-air sponsorship on IPL’s broadcast rights holder Sony Entertainment Television (SET).

Big TV does not want any of its rivals to partner with Sony as on-air sponsor. As per the original deal inked almost six months back, Big TV is a ground sponsor and has rights to advertise only on ground.

An official close to the development told ET, “Big TV is renegotiating its exclusive DTH rights deal for IPL and is most likely to pull out if the company’s demands are not met. It is also negotiating on the amount it has committed to IPL since it believes the deal has loopholes through which some other players can get benefits from the deal.”

Replying to an email sent by ET, an R-ADAG spokesperson said, “We will not be in a position to offer any comment on your query at this point of time.”

But, for BCCI, giving in to Big TV’s demands may not be possible. Unlike last year, Sony is not offering any category exclusive on-air rights to advertisers now. So any DTH company can pick up on-air sponsorship during the IPL matches on Sony, and the broadcaster’s deal with Bharti Airtel is almost closed. A Sony official, who did not wish to be named, said: “We had offered Big TV on-air sponsorship rights some time back, but at that time they were not interested.”

PL commissioner Lalit Modi or IPL CEO Sundar Raman could not be reached for comment. ET has learnt that Big TV has also asked BCCI for exclusive re-runs and behind-the-scenes uncut footage of IPL matches. That too is not possible since Sony has exclusive broadcast rights for all platforms—satellite and DTH, which it had won early last year along with World Sports Group for $918 million.

Also, as per government regulations, exclusivity of content is not allowed on the DTH platform. A channel is bound to provide its feed to all the DTH platforms unlike the West.

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