MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Networks' Sports and Distribution Business president Rajesh Kaul has told Reuters that he believes SPN has enough cricket in its portfolio to challenge Star, the network's chief rival.
Kaul's confidence appears to have been buttressed by the new deal the network struck with Cricket Australia last week, getting for itself the rights to broadcast Australian cricket in the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for the next six years for an undisclosed amount.
Kaul admitted that he was disappointed that SPN lost out last month to Star India for the IPL rights, which was the flagship property of the network for the last ten years. He however, argued that the failure to retain rights to world cricket's most valuable annual property could be absorbed by the Sony Corp subsidiary.
"We created IPL and made it into the huge brand that it is now," he is quoted as saying.
SPN was the only other serious contender for the television rights of the IPL, and will be one again when the rights to India's home matches come up for bidding in the next few months. "The BCCI rights will be good to have. No doubt about that," Kaul said. "But we will be very thoughtful about this. Our IPL bid was aggressive but still very thoughtful. We are here to run a successful business. That is always at the core of our entire strategy. There is so much cricket available on our network already."
The Ashes series between Australia and England around the New Year will be the first property to air on SPN after the deal with Cricket Australia, coming as it does on the back of the deal to acquire TEN Sports, which owns rights of cricket boards in South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe.
"Given that cricket still enjoys one of the highest viewerships among all audiences in the country, the focus was to strengthen that portfolio despite having five cricket boards with us," Kaul said in the interview. "It's another win for us, it makes our portfolio far more formidable. It consolidates our position as a very strong destination for cricket apart from so many other sports."
Besides broadcasting the NBA and the NFL in India, SPN also holds rights for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the ongoing under-17 World Cup, and soccer leagues such as Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A.