Mumbai: Season 4 of the popular Indian Premier League (IPL) is still a few months away, but the controversial Twenty20 cricket tournament is off to a rocky start with the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) attempt to sell media rights, some of which are the subject of a case in the Bombay high court.
BCCI, through an advertisement in Tuesday’s papers, invited bids for global Internet and mobile rights, and television rights for some regions for IPL 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Sports marketing company World Sport Group (WSG), which is fighting a case with BCCI in Mumbai over what it terms the illegal termination of its rights by the board, condemned the call for bids.
In a statement, WSG, which previously owned some of the rights before its contract was terminated, said: “The BCCI has issued a tender in spite of the undertakings given by it to the Bombay high court, and WSG is advised that the tender violates the undertaking the BCCI has given to the Supreme Court.”
Apart from global television rights, WSG also has some other rights, including the Internet, live-streaming (with a short delay) and mobile rights. Last year, Google Inc.’s YouTube platform signed a two-year deal to stream the matches; the deal was signed with a company that acquired the rights from WSG.
WSG’s statement said it would take necessary action to protect its commercial rights and those of its licensees around the world.
A BCCI official said the board was within its rights to call for bids. “There is no restriction on the BCCI proceeding with the tender,” added this person, who did not want to be identified.
However, news agency PTI reported late on Tuesday evening that the Supreme Court had stayed the Bombay high court’s order allowing for arbitration as sought by WSG.
However, the court took an undertaking from BCCI that it would honour any contract entered by WSG, which should protect the rights of those entities that have multi-year agreements with the sports marketeer or its agents.
BCCI’s ad listed rights for the following: worldwide television with the exclusion of territories of Indian sub-continent, Australia, South Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Hong Kong and Singapore; worldwide radio with the exclusion of the Middle East; worldwide Internet with a five-minute delay in the Indian sub-continent and worldwide mobile with a five-minute delay in the Indian sub-continent.
Currently, Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSML), which owns the SET and MAX channels, holds the broadcasting rights of the domestic Twenty20 league in India until 2017. The firm, along with WSG, had signed a multi-year deal with BCCI in 2007, paying Rs8,200 crore for global TV and media rights. However, in June last, a new deal was renegotiated between BCCI and MSML for India TV rights. WSG was kept out of the broadcast deal after BCCI claimed to have uncovered irregularities in the original deal between the sports marketeer and IPL. That deal was signed when Lalit Modi was commissioner of IPL. Modi has since been sacked.
A Google spokesperson said: “We are reviewing the tender notice issued by BCCI for global Internet and mobile rights for IPL matches, along with our partners. We will revert once we have more clarity around this development.”