In a dramatic twist to the telecast rights issue, Zee Sports was on Thursday awarded the Cable and Satellite rights for the Test series between India and Sri Lanka, barely hours before the first match begins in Chennai.
Zee Sports, which was virtually blacklisted by the previous regime in the Board of Control for Cricket in India, bagged the rights after emerging as the highest bidder at a meeting in Mumbai, where two other bidders -- ESPN-Star Sports and Nimbus -- were present.
The development came as a surprise since the BCCI had already worked out an interim arrangement with public broadcaster Prasar Bharti for telecast of the three matches which was also approved by the AGM in Kolkata on Tuesday.
"In an open and transparent meeting with the BCCI, in which all bidders were present, we managed to secure the rights for the series," Himanshu Mody, Business Head of Zee Sports, said while refusing to disclose the bid amount.
"It is for the BCCI to disclose financial matters," he added.
The private broadcaster will take the help of TransWorld International for production but will market the event itself.
Prasar Bharti, which will continue to hold the terrestrial rights, as per a recent Cabinet decision, expressed dismay at the sudden development and said the decision would pose a lot of logistic problems.
"We had already installed all the equipment at the venue but now we are being told of this decision at the eleventh hour," a Prasar Bharti spokesman said.
Zee Sports, on the other hand, is looking to build on its success during the Afro-Asian Cup and the Challenger series that the channel recently beamed live.
"Acquiring the rights is an assertion of our commitment to provide exciting cricket to viewers in India. We are sure to repeat the success achieved in Afro-Asia Cup and Challenger Series through world-class production, marketing and distribution strength of Zee Sports," Mody said.
"We will continue to build on that equity and provide even greater enjoyment to the fans of the game, in the tournament to be played."
The telecast will include preview and review shows, special programming and advertising innovations, world-class graphics, special interviews and match reports.
The Board's decision today marked a shift from its earlier stand that no channel which did not have the required experience would be allowed to bid for the rights.
But with a change of guard at the helm of BCCI affairs, Zee Sports, which shared a frosty relationship with the previous regime, seems to have found favour with the Sharad Pawar-led new management.
India and Sri Lanka are scheduled to play three Test matches with the first match beginning in Chennai tomorrow.
Delhi will host the second Test from December 10-14 while the venue for the third match is yet to be decided after Uttar pradesh Cricket Association expressed its inability to hold a match in Kanpur.