Zee Entertainment Enterprises, the Indian media conglomerate, has escalated its dispute with pay-TV heavyweight Star India around rights to International Cricket Council (ICC) events during the 2024-27 cycle.

Zee has now formally requested from Star – as set out in its third-quarter financial results – a refund of INR68.54 crore ($8.25 million), claiming Star breached the terms of the agreement and requesting a significant refund.

Zee has accused Star of breaching the deal the two parties struck in August 2022, through which Star was meant to have granted exclusive sub-licensing rights for linear TV to Zee for all ICC events during the 2024-27 cycle.

Zee has now disclosed, in its third-quarter filings, that both parties are blaming each other for the dispute. Star has claimed that it has not received the first installment of the rights fee that Zee is contractually obliged to pay, while Zee has hit back by stating that it has paid the sum ($203.56 million).

Indeed, Zee has said that Star is actually at fault in this situation, for not obtaining the approvals and documentation necessary for their deal to go through.

Star struck its original rights deal with the ICC for major events between 2024 and 2027 a few days before it signed the sub-licensing tie-up with Zee.

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Zee has been looking to extricate itself from its tie-up with Star for the ICC rights over the last few weeks, ever since a long-planned merger between Zee and Star’s sports rights rival Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) was abandoned.

The deal between Star and Zee would have seen the former network license out a package of rights to men’s ICC events during the 2024-27 cycle to Zee, across linear TV only – Star, the ICC rightsholder, would have retained digital rights to those events.

The ICC, in its original bidding documents for Indian media rights, had included a provision in its bid document that allowed the winner to sub-license a package out to another party.

It has been reported that the payment due to Star for the licensing of rights was intrinsically linked to the Zee-SPN merger, which fell apart in mid-January.

SPN, according to Zee, is seeking compensation of around $90 million over the deal’s termination.

The merger, which would have been worth around $10 billion, would have combined over 75 linear TV channels as well as their respective streaming platforms.

Zee has now stated: “Based on the legal advice, the management believes that Star has not acted by the Alliance Agreement and has failed to obtain necessary approvals, execution of necessary documentation and agreements.”

India is set to co-host the men’s T20 World Cup in 2026, while other men’s events in the 2024-27 cycle include the 2024 T20 World Cup (USA and West Indies), the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy (Pakistan), and the 2027 World Cup (South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia).

The ICC men’s Cricket World Cup in India late last year was covered under Star’s previous deal with the ICC, which ran between 2015 and the end of 2023.