Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) has acquired the broadcast rights for the Emirates Cricket Board's (ECB) UAE T20 League for a period of 10 years, which analysts say is likely to work favourably for the media company.
"The tournament will be just like an Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament, having international players. It (The UAE T20 League) will feature six teams and 34 matches including final and playoffs," said Elara Capital Senior Vice-President Karan Taurani, referring to the cash-rich Twenty20 domestic cricket legaue.
IPL franchises Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals have bought three teams in the UAE T20 League. The schedule of the league is yet to be announced.
Drawing a parallel with IPL, Taurani said the UAE league had come at a relatively lower cost of Rs 3.4 crore a match, a tenth of the IPL realisation.
"Zee has bought the rights of this tournament for $15 million (approximately Rs 112 crore) per year, which translates into $150 million (around Rs 1,126 crore) for 10 years. Comparatively a large franchise like IPL was sold for $2 billion in its earlier cycle and the bid cycle next year with two additional teams from 8 to 10 will be anywhere closer to $5 billion for five years," he said.
While the cost is lower, Taurani said the league would be a large scale property, the timing would be favourable as the time gap between India and the UAE was small, the audience pool would be large—almost 47 percent of the UAE expats followed cricket and 90 percent of the population was expats.
The acquisition would work well if the execution and marketing of the event was effective.
"Zee is strong in terms of distribution strategy in the Middle East," he said. The network has channels including Zee TV, Zee Cinema, &TV besides Zee Aflam and Zee Alwan, which are targeted at the Middle Eastern audience.
The tournament could boost eyeballs in a big way for over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Zee5.
"However, it is still very early days, as we have seen many IPL-like cricket tournaments that have come by but none have been able to monetise like the IPL, given the large pool of international players that are currently playing for their respective teams," he said.
It would be interesting to see how many well-known international players, including Indians, play the tournament, given their national commitments, he said.
This is a comeback of sorts for Zee in the cricketing arena. Zee TV founder Subhash Chandra in 2007 had launched the now-defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL). The league failed to click with Indian viewers and the IPL launch next year sealed its fate. ICL folded in 2009.
In 2017, Zee had sold its sports channel Ten Sports to Sony Pictures Networks for $385 million in an all-cash deal. Explaining the rationale behind selling Ten Sports, Punit Goenka, MD and CEO, had said that investments required to continue in the sports business were high.With Zee’s merger with Sony Pictures Networks India, which according to Goenka is in the final stages of being stitched up, sports will from a big part of the merged entity.