Zee loses cricket-rights challenge

BCCI now free to call for fresh bids for upcoming tour

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court in New Delhi dismissed Wednesday a petition by Zee Telefilms, India’s largest listed media group, challenging the allocation of telecast rights by India’s cricket board in 2004.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) awarded four-year rights to Zee for a record $308 million in September but canceled the deal when rival bidder ESPN-Star Sports, which is backed by Disney and News Corp., challenged it in the Mumbai high court.

The BCCI feared it would be forced to postpone October’s Test series against world champion Australia if the legal battle continued.

It justified the cancellation on the grounds that it had not formalized the deal with Zee and had returned an advance of $20 million deposited by Zee.

State-run broadcaster Doordarshan telecast the Australian series and a subsequent tour by the South Africa team.

The BCCI is now free to call for fresh bids for the upcoming tour by Pakistan and other series.

Zee’s offer of $308 million was six times more than the $54 million paid by Doordarshan for the previous four years, and it dwarfed the government’s yearly sports budget of $44 million.

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