Channel to show a minimum of 25 matches April 6, 2006

Row overshadows Zee's media rights success

Zee Telefilms Limited have won the global media rights to broadcast India's overseas cricket series on neutral venues, but their success has been overshadowed by an unseemly spat with the Indian board vice-president, Lalit Modi, whom they have accused of indecent behaviour and threatened with legal action.

Zee won the tender after quoting a bid of US$219.15 million for five years - from April 1, 2006 to Mar 31, 2011 - during which they will show a minimum of 25 matches. But the alleged incident happened yesterday when Himanshu Modi, the chief executive of Zee Sports, protested against a violation by a competitor, Sahara, in the bidding process.

"We are going to file a defamation suit against Lalit Modi for Rs. 50 crore for using filthy and abusive language against our CEO", said Zee Group executive vice-president and spokesperson, Ashish Kaul. "We are going to send legal notice immediately for use of such language against a top official of Zee Sports."

When contacted Modi told PTI: "I have heard of sour losers and never of sour winners. I only protested against leakage of information to media and did not use any abusive langauage against the Zee official".

The first series Zee will broadcast is for India's brief one-day trip to Pakistan at Abu Dhabi on April 18 and 19. The neutral venues identified by the BCCI include Dubai, Holland, Singapore, England, Canada, the USA, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur.

The BCCI are hoping to tap into the Asian expatriates market to increase its revenue. IS Bindra, the former president of the BCCI, played down criticisms of there being a poor response in countries where cricket did not have a strong following.

"Soccer had no takers in the US when the (1998) World Cup was held," he said. "But it has grown in the eight-years' time since then."