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Sri Lanka Cricket extends TV rights tender amid India series questions

Sri Lanka Cricket has again been forced into extending its global media-rights invitation to tender process, amid reports of concerns from bidders over the status of its scheduled series against India.

The tender, which also includes national team sponsorship rights for the three-year period up to 2023, was due to close yesterday (Monday), but local newspaper the Sunday Times said the deadline has now been extended to the end of the month.

This is said to be due to the status of Sri Lanka’s series against India. On Thursday, SLC announced that the series, due to comprise three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches, would not go ahead as scheduled this month due to Covid-19 concerns.

India tours are a lucrative proposition for any cricket board and with SLC now targeting August for the series, tender bidders are said to be seeking clarity before committing.

A senior official told the Sunday Times: “The uncertainty will not help us in driving up the contract prices.

“But having said that, I must also confess India is committed to honour the FTP (Future Tours Programme) commitments. If not in August this year, when we are trying to sneak the short series in, we will certainly play it during the three-year cycle. We can give this guarantee to the prospective bidders.”

The news marks the latest amendment to the rights auction, with SLC last month reported to be unsatisfied with the bids it received in response to a process which closed in February. Sri Lanka Cricket’s international media rights have historically been acquired by Indian broadcasters, with that market accounting for most of their value.

Pay-television broadcaster Sony Pictures Networks India is the current rights-holder, in a seven-year deal running from 2013 to end-March 2020.

Sony’s deal was worth around $60m (€53m), of which around $25m was for the India tour in 2017. Sony also covered production costs for SLC that are reported to have been worth between $13m and $14m.

Three entities are in contention for the rights, according to Inside Sport. One of the bidders told the Indian sports business website: “For us (the) India tour is the most (important) part of the FTP. SLC though is guaranteeing that tour will be accommodated by BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) anytime in the three year cycle of rights. But we can’t commit anything if the timelines and dates for the tour do not get finalised.”

Sri Lanka is scheduled to host 25 Tests, 60 ODIs and 38 T20 internationals during the new FTP term, which began on April 1, 2020.