Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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The BCCI will invite bidders to participate in an open-tender process to secure broadcasting rights for the IPL, for the cycle starting in 2018. Anurag Thakur, the BCCI president, will make the announcement in Delhi on Sunday. Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI) owns the current rights, which will expire after the 2017 IPL season.
It is understood that the BCCI made SPNI aware of the open tender during negotiations held over the past few months. According to a top BCCI official, a clause in the original contract dictated that both parties would discuss the new deal in a 60-day window immediately after the 2016 IPL. The window opened on May 30, the day after the IPL final.
During this period SPNI was meant to make an offer for the BCCI to consider. The BCCI was supposed to respond within 10 days of the closing of the 60-day negotiating window.
"We had to make a final offer to them," the BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo on Saturday. "That is in the text of the contract. We met several times and our line to them was, in today's day and age, this is the biggest sports deal (IPL broadcasting rights), and it has to happen through an open tender. There is no other way."
The official did not divulge the details of the tender process, including whether the rights would be sold for a 10-year cycle as it had been previously, or for a smaller period of time.
According to this official, picking the next IPL broadcaster through a tender process also conformed to the guidelines listed in the Lodha Committee report, which had recommended more transparency in the BCCI's business deals.
The official pointed out that the BCCI, despite being opposed to various recommendations of the Lodha Committee, had accepted the point that striking new contracts though tenders was the best method.
"The only transparent process is through an open tender and that is also the right way to discover the right price for this property. The Supreme Court judgement of July 18 clearly mentions that all future negotiations need to happen through a tender. So if we do anything else it would be an infringement of the order."
When asked whether SPNI had agreed to the process, the BCCI official said: "They have not said anything to the contrary."
Senior SPNI officials could not be reached for a reaction, but an insider privy to the negotiations said SPNI had not accepted the BCCI's offer. "SPNI has not accepted it. There are still a lot of things pending including legal options and all. SPNI's view is BCCI is not honouring its contract."
According to this official, SPNI executives repeatedly pointed out to the BCCI that it had played a big role in elevating the IPL from its inception in 2008 to its current level of popularity. "Sony told BCCI the IPL was a non-existing property. It invested in it and made IPL what it is today."
The negotiation clause under the existing contract allows SPNI the first right of refusal as well the right to match a counter-offer made by a rival. In August, while the negotiations were going on, SPNI CEO NP Singh had hoped the BCCI would accept Sony's offer.
"When the BCCI conceived of the IPL, we identified it as a potential game-changing property," Singh told televisionpost.com. "Since then, we have worked productively with the BCCI to grow the league. Our agreement is now close to 10 years old, and both the parties have always followed it in letter and spirit. While I wouldn't comment on any particular clause, I would say that we feel comfortable in the knowledge that there will be fair negotiations."
Singh had said SPNI would be aggressive in trying to retain the rights. "We have worked really hard to bring the IPL to where it stands today with the support of the BCCI and the franchisees. We would like to carry this value-building exercise forward into the future as well."
According to the BCCI official, SPNI were "interpreting" the offer to be a financial one. But the official stressed that there was no mention of the BCCI ever having to make a "financial offer" to SPNI during the negotiations. "We told them you are a valued stakeholder so please come and participate in the tender process."
In 2008, the Singapore-based World Sports Group bagged the IPL television rights for a ten-year period with a $918 million bid. It simultaneously signed a deal with Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd. (MSM) that Sony would be the official broadcaster. The contract was recast before IPL 2009, with MSM agreeing to pay $1.63 billion for nine years.
ESPN has a long-term collaboration with Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) for the launch of SONYESPN-branded television channels and digital assets in India and the subcontinent