BIG TV asks BCCI for cheaper deal

Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG)-controlled BIG TV has accepted an offer to re-negotiate its aborted deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for on-ground partnership rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL), provided the offer price is lowered.

BIG TV had signed a Rs 137-crore deal with BCCI last year for four editions of the tournament, but sources close to the negotiations said it was now willing to pay Rs 80 crore.

BCCI has not responded to this proposal yet.

BIG TV has also said there was no change in its condition that rival DTH player, Airtel DTH, could not remain a TV partner with broadcast rights-holder Sony Entertainment Television (SET). An R-DAG group spokesman declined to comment on the issue.

Last week, BIG TV walked out of the deal for on-ground partnership (which involve the rights for ground-branding), alleging discrimination by SET.

BIG TV told IPL CEO Sundar Raman last week that SET decided to offer the contract of exclusive on-air partner to Airtel DTH which quoted a lower price, sources close to the development said.

Sources said Sony initially offered BIG TV on-air rights for as high as Rs 75 crore, but then cut it to Rs 35 crore. They added that the deal with Airtel DTH was struck at an even lower price.

Under IPL laws, BIG TV by virtue of holding the ground sponsorship rights, also had the first right of refusal over the right to become the official DTH partner on television.

Sony President Rohit Gupta declined to comment on BIG TV’s offer. He, however, clarified that 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.”

Meanwhile, IPL today clarified there was no move by BCCI to transfer the broadcasting rights from Sony to another broadcaster because of the R-ADAG and Airtel battle. Lalit Modi, commissioner of IPL, said: “I want to make it amply clear that all our sponsors and partners are still on board. They have all paid according to the schedule. In fact, a lot of other sponsors have approached us and are willing to pay more than our existing ones.”

He also dismissed speculation that Sony CEO Kunal Das Gupta had resigned over the issue of IPL demanding Sony pay compensation because of the loss of the BIG TV deal. “It’s an internal matter for Sony. Kunal is a personal friend of mine but the organisation, whether it’s Sony or IPL, is bigger than any individual. There’s no question of Sony pulling out,” said Modi, who is also BCCI vice-president.