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PCB to end interim arrangement, sell 5-year TV rights in mid-2014

MUMBAI: The television rights for Pakistan cricket is up for grabs with the country’s governing body planning to come out with a tender for a five-year period in the first half of 2014, says a top official from a leading broadcast network who is familiar with the development.

PCBThis will end the uncertainty over the property as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been awarding the TV rights on a series-to-series basis. Sony Six is the beneficiary of the interim arrangement and will be telecasting live the Pakistan-Sri Lanka series which kicks off on 11 December.

PCB officials could not be reached for comments till the time of filing this report.

Incidentally, Ten Sports is the incumbent broadcast rights holder and has the first right to refusal. Its five-year deal with PCB ended in June this year. In July, the PCB had appointed former ICC chief Ehsan Mani as advisor for TV rights deal.

The issue of television rights could not be settled since the PCB was going through an internal crisis with Najam Sethi taking interim charge of the cricket board following former chairman Zaka Ashraf’s suspension on charges of winning election through dubious means.

With no broadcast deal in place, the PCB in August had decided to award the television rights on a series-to-series basis till a broadcast partner was finalised.

Consequently, the PCB issued separate tenders for two home series against South Africa and Sri Lanka in August. Pakistan plays its home matches in the UAE since international teams are wary of travelling to the country due to prevailing security issues.

Following the tender process, the PCB awarded the broadcast rights for the South Africa series to Ten Sports while the rights for the Sri Lanka series were awarded to Geo Super, the sports channel from Independent Media Corporation, which also runs popular local news channel Geo News.

Geo Super, the official broadcast rights holder for the Sri Lanka series, has in turn licensed the India rights to Multi Screen Media’s (MSM) sports channel Sony Six. The Sri Lanka series, comprising three Tests, five ODIs and two T20s, will be played from 11 December to 16 January.

Ten Sports’ broadcast rights deal with PCB was valued at $140 million. However, by the end of the rights cycle, PCB had to take a hit of almost $80 million since the designated India tour did not happen during the five-year rights cycle due to deterioration of relationships between the two countries.

The PCB broadcast rights is not considered lucrative since it does not have the India series. Among the Indian broadcasters, Ten Sports is aggressively vying for the rights with or without India tour since it has a full-fledged presence in Pakistan with its sports channels downlinking in the country.

However, Sony’s sudden interest in the one-off Pakistan-Sri Lanka series surely adds a twist to the PCB rights story.

The PCB, though, is hoping for a bilateral series with India in 2014.