Zee-TEN sports TV merger impacts on South Asia

Zee Telefilms has acquired a 50 per cent stake in the Dubai-based sports channel TEN Sports in a deal that creates a formidable combine in sports television in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Zee Sports’s business head Himanshu Mody confirmed Zee will have four of the seven members on TEN Sports’s board of directors. The acquisition comes after the Subhash Chandra-controlled Zee sought to take over UNI last month. In a statement quoted by The Telegraph, Chandra said he was certain that the TEN deal will result in a “mutually beneficial relationship”. TEN Sports’s promoter Abdul Rahman Bukhatir said joining hands with Zee would take his channel to “unprecedented heights”. “Ultimately, I see our partnership as one which will change the industry,” Bukhatir added. According to PTI, Zee vice-chairman Jawahar Goel will take over as TEN Sports chairman in a year, replacing Bukhatir. The post will be rotated between the two companies. Chris McDonald will continue as CEO.

The possibility of a merger of TEN Sports and Zee Sports is not ruled out, Mody said, adding teams from both sides will meet in eight to 10 days to discuss ways to align the functioning of channels. Industry is hoping the Zee Sports-TEN Sports deal will lessen the cutthroat competition for broadcasting rights to cricket tournaments and bring down the high rates that channels often pay for them. The Telegraph reported that Zee and TEN Sports had bid separately for rights to International Cricket Council’s matches from 2007 to 2015. There is speculation that the winning offer could touch the $1-billion mark.

Zee Sports and TEN Sports hold rights to several events. The combine will be particularly strong in cricket. Zee holds the rights to all matches organised by the Board of Control of Cricket in India in neutral venues till 2010. TEN Sports has rights to events organised by the Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies cricket boards. Zee Sports also holds rights to some events in Indian football, Davis Cup tennis, Women’s Tennis Association and Italian Serie A matches. TEN Sports has bid successfully with the organisers of UEFA Champions League in Europe, WWE wrestling in America, US Open tennis and World Cup hockey.