Big TV buys IPL cricket for $31 mil

Four-year direct to home contract

NEW DELHI--Direct to home television rights to India's newest and rising cricket league sold Saturday for $31.16 million (Rupees 1.37 billion) to Big TV, a unit of Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE).

Big TV said it would begin to exercise four-years of DTH rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) soon, to compete with established cricket broadcasters Tata Sky -- a News Corp.’s joint venture with the Tata industrial group--and Dish TV, owned by Zee Telefilms.

IPL launched in May with eight franchised teams auctioned for $720 million to owners including Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta.

“Big TV will play its role in the enhancement of the league and in the process, add to its own business and public profile,” RBE President Rajesh Sawhney said in a statement.

Big TV parent RBE is a unit of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), the company in talks to fund DreamWorks’ exit from Paramount.

In January, 10 years of IPL cable TV rights sold for about $1.03 billion to Sony Entertainment Television in Mumbai and Singapore-based sports marketing company World Sport Group.

In June, IPL finals were watched by 39 million viewers in India’s estimated 70 million cable homes.