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​Sony may move court if BCCI fails to honour IPL contract

SPN has the right of first refusal, according to its contract with BCCI, for the broadcast rights of the league that are up for grabs starting with the 2018 edition.

Updated: Sep 09, 2016, 06.40 AM IST
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SPN has the right of first refusal, according to its contract with BCCI, for the broadcast rights of the league that are up for grabs starting with the 2018 edition.
SPN has the right of first refusal, according to its contract with BCCI, for the broadcast rights of the league that are up for grabs starting with the 2018 edition.
MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: The action and drama around the Indian Premier League (IPL) never ends, be it on the ground or off it. The latest tussle is likely to be between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the official broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), which is planning to take the legal route if the board decides to go for bidding of IPL’s broadcast rights rather than renew their contract through negotiations.

SPN has the right of first refusal, according to its contract with BCCI, for the broadcast rights of the league that are up for grabs starting with the 2018 edition. The broadcaster had told ET recently that it has made an offer to BCCI and is now waiting for a final offer from the board, according to the clause in the contract.

However, recent reports suggest that the board, currently under the glare of the Supreme Court to bring in transparency to the system, is pushing for the bidding of broadcast rights. “Sony is yet to hear from the board on the offer,” said a person close to the development, asking not to be named. An email questionnaire sent to SPN did not elicit any response till press-time on Thursday.

Legal experts ET spoke to said that BCCI should honour the existing contract, which allows SPN to match the final offer of the BCCI for the rights. Kaushik Moitra, partner at TMT Law Practice, said the right of first refusal does not restrict fresh price discovery, but safeguards the right of the vendor, in this case the broadcaster, who has invested heavily in building the property.

“SPN should be allowed to match the offer as per the contract as that is what the written contract says,” Moitra said. “Bidding will enrich the board, but the pricing will go through the roof and that may hurt the overall sports business ecosystem.”

A senior BCCI official said that the board has learnt from the past and has been making an effort to be transparent over the past year and having an auction for the broadcast rights is taking the process forward. He also pointed out that the clause on negotiation was never part of the original 2008 deal and was included in the revised IPL rights in 2009.

Legal experts, however, said the contract is supreme. “Sony has a right, which is enforceable. This is not an uncommon clause,” said Ameet Naik, managing partner of law firm Naik Naik & Company. “If BCCI is trying to renegotiate with SPN and taking away the right from SPN, it is against the spirit of the contract.”

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