Subhash Chandra’s Zee Telefilms has locked down its cricket coverage, a sport as vital to India’s TV webs as football is Stateside, by buying a 50% stake in Taj TV’s Ten Sports for $57 million with an option on the remaining 50%.
Dubai-based Ten Sports, which airs in India, the Mideast, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Hong Kong, has broadcasting rights to matches of the cricket boards from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Zee has TV rights to all matches played by India at venues outside the country.
The takeover creates the most valuable piece of cricketing real estate in the business.
India’s sports channel segment is heating up: Nimbus Communications, distributed by News Corp.’s Star TV, recently bought the rights to all cricket matches played within India, for $612 million.
Zee’s move comes in a week in which global cricketing body, the Intl. Cricket Council, will decide on bids for global cricket telecasts and marketing rights for eight years, starting 2007, including World Cup cricket tourneys in 2007 and 2011.
Both Ten Sports and Zee have bid for the rights, but could now combine to take on main rival, ESPN-Star.