Zee unavailable for now; Star to broadcast the U19 World Cup

One of the nation’s top sports television channels, Star Sports, is set to broadcast the Under-19 World Cup. Considering that the network, formerly owned by Rupert Murdoch and currently owned by Walt Disney, has been airing international events since 2007, this may appear ordinary. The television rights-sharing arrangement between Star Sports and Zed Network has faced difficulties, which has recently changed the game. As a result, Star Sports has taken full ownership of the digital and linear properties—at least for now. The event’s digital platform will be Hotstar.

Negotiations are underway with the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the telecast of the Under 19 World Cup, which will be the first major event in the new 2024–27 cycle of the ICC competitions. Cricbuzz has learned that Star Sports is actively seeking to sell commercial spots for the World Cup, which begins on January 19 in South Africa. ICC, Star, and Zed officials have been silent about this development.

For those who are unaware, Disney Star paid USD 3.1 billion in August of last year to acquire the ICC rights for four years. The next day, Disney Star granted Zed Entertainment Limited (ZEEL) a sub-licensing for the linear rights. Initially, the situation appeared amicable, especially with ZEEL contemplating a combination with Sony India. However, ZEEL’s agreement with Disney Star has been negatively impacted by the protracted difficulties in the merger negotiations.

The complexities of this arrangement span multiple levels and could be impacted by additional advancements in the sector. According to some sources, Disney Star and the Reliance-owned Network/Viacom 18 are reportedly in talks about Disney possibly selling its Indian operations. Industry rumors suggest that there will be a statement on this topic later this month. However, that is a separate development, therefore it is hard to say how much it will affect the ICC rights.

As per the terms of the ICC-Star agreement, Zed was supposed to bear half of the financial burden while Star was supposed to supply a bank guarantee. But as of right now, it seems like Zed has not paid up its share of the agreed-upon amount, therefore Star is left with the full financial burden. It’s unclear if this arrangement applies throughout the entire cycle or if Zee’s relationship has been put on hold for the time being. The Twenty20 World Cup, which will take place in the US and the Caribbean in June, is the cycle’s next big event. While everything is going on, Zed executives are hard at work getting ready for the telecast of the second iteration of the UAE’s ILT20, which also happens to begin on January 19.

16 teams are competing in the Under-19 World Cup, which runs through February 11. There will be 48 games in all. The reigning champions are India.

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