The Zee Entertainment Enterprises Indian media conglomerate is now planning to withdraw from its licensing deal with rival Star India concerning coverage of men’s International Cricket Council events between 2024 and 2027.
Reports in Indian media have now claimed that Zee is attempting to back out of its deal (unveiled in August 2022) with Disney-owned Star – worth in the region of $1.4 billion – in the wake of the abandonment of a long-planned merger between Zee and Sony Pictures Networks (SPN).
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 now been reported, however, that the payment due to Star for the licensing of rights was intrinsically linked to the Zee-SPN merger, which fell apart in the last week after a deadline passed without a resolution. It had first been unveiled in late 2021. Therefore, the deal is expected to be off.
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.
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Reports suggest that Sony feels merger conditions were not met, while Zee, in response, has said it could take legal action against SPN.
The deal’s original announcement said that Zee’s chief executive, Punit Goenka, would lead the merged company.
However, SPN has reportedly been unhappy about the choice of Goenka, who has been the subject of a recent investigation by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). He has also been barred from from assuming directorial or significant managerial positions in publicly-listed companies, due to alleged fund diversion.
SPN, according to Zee, is seeking compensation of around $90 million over the deal’s termination.
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.