Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), an Indian media conglomerate which is headquartered in Mumbai, has acquired the broadcast rights for the Emirates Cricket Board’s (ECB) UAE T20 League for a period of 10 years, reports have suggested.
As per reports, the broadcasting deal was signed for $150 million over the 10-year period which means ZEEL will be paying $15 million per year to the ECB as broadcast rights fee for the tournament.
The deal comes at a time when ZEEL is in the process of merging its business with Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and the merger means that the combined entity will be a big player in the sports broadcasting business.
Earlier, ZEEL had quit the sports business in 2016 after selling its Ten Sports to Sony for $385 million.
Recently speaking at APOS India 2021 event, ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka had said that the Zee-Sony merger deal is in progress and the $1.57 billion growth capital infusion by Sony will allow the merged entity to invest in high-quality content, including sports.
“Zee and Sony will form the largest media and entertainment player in the country. Our revenue on a standalone basis will be close to $2 billion and the growth capital that Sony is going to infuse in the merged entity will give us the opportunity to invest in premium content including sports,” Goenka had said.
“There is a going to be a huge opportunity on both digital and linear side to create big scale entertainment properties and acquire large IPs across genres,” he had added.
“While we will reconsider sports on a standalone basis but right now my focus is look on joint consolidated basis with Sony. A lot has changed since we exited the sports business and funnily so, we sold it to Sony, and it’s coming full circle back home,” he had further expressed.
Notably, the deal might be very fruitful for ZEEL as Cricket, which has over 2.5 billion fans across the globe, is the second most watched sport in UAE as the country has a huge diaspora from cricket-loving nationas especially India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The six-team league will kick off early next year.
What looks interesting is that three of the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises – Mumbai Indians (MI), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Delhi Capitals (DC) will acquire a team in the UAE T20 league.
Moreover, the Glazer family, owners of the Manchester United, and Big Bash League (BBL) franchise Sidney Sixers are also expected to own teams in the league.
While MI had recently announced to acquire a frnachise, the others are reportedly in process of doing so.
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), the parent company of Mumbai Indians, on November 24 had announced to acquire a team in the UAE T20 League.
“Reliance Industries Limited, through its subsidiary Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Ltd (RSBVL) will be acquiring the rights to own and operate a new franchise cricket team in the Emirates Cricket Board’s upcoming UAE T20 League. The move is the first major overseas expansion of Reliance Industries’ cricket operations in the global franchise-based cricket leagues,” the organisers had said in a statement.
On the other hand, Nita Ambani, co-owner & architect of Mumbai Indians had said: “With great pride and joy, we take our Mumbai Indians brand of fearless cricket to a new geography. We are thankful to our fans, both in India and overseas, for supporting MI wholeheartedly. I look forward to strengthening and further expanding our global fanbase, and having a longer engagement with them through this new League.”
“While Mumbai Indians will continue to remain at the heart of our cricket operations, the popularity of global T20 leagues and attractiveness of the UAE market offer a unique opportunity for us to further unlock the value of our sports management expertise. It also allows us a platform to develop young international talent and share best practices both on and off the field,” she added.
For the initial few years, the league will feature six franchise teams competing in a 34-match event. The League will involve some of the biggest names in world cricket and provide a platform and exposure to upcoming young cricketers.