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Sony to resume talks with Big TV for on-air ad deal
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Under pressure from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the IPL broadcast rights holder Sony Entertainment has decided to reopen talks with Reliance-ADAG’s Big TV for an on-air advertising deal. The move signals that the deal with Airtel DTH is in jeopardy.

A source in Big TV told ET: “We are reopening talks with Sony. We will be meeting them this week and will be re-evaluating the on-air deal.”

Sony had tied up with Big TV’s rival Bharti Airtel, as an exclusive DTH sponsor, something Big TV officials had objected to. But an official close to Airtel DTH, requesting anonymity said: “As far as we are concerned, Sony’s deal with Airtel is non-cancellable. The deal between the two follows the rules laid down by the BCCI itself.”

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi had earlier said that if Sony did go ahead with its deal with rival Airtel DTH, the broadcaster would face “severe repercussions”.

According to the BCCI rules, the first right of refusal for the on-air sponsorship is offered to the ground rights holder — in this case, Big TV. A Sony official maintained: “We did offer the exclusive on-air rights to Big TV before approaching any other DTH player, but at that time Big TV was not keen on the deal.”

Sony’s change of stand is being seen in cricket circles, as the company buckling under pressure from BCCI. While IPL has even threatened to cancel Sony’s broadcast deal with itself, it is unlikely that such a drastic move will be taken, considering the money at stake.

The World Sports Group had paid BCCI $918-million to acquire the exclusive media rights for a 10-year period starting last year, and WSG had in turn sold telecast rights for the South Asia region to Sony for five years.

Sony has already closed some sponsorship deals for IPL’s second season, and is aggressively selling spots in the market now. Big TV has paid Rs 137 crore to BCCI for a four-year deal, as ground rights partner starting this year.

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