Sony Entertainment Television (SET), which was close to picking up a 50 per cent stake in Taj Television that owns the Ten Sports channel, has said it has pulled out of the talks on "valuation issues".
SET's chief executive officer (CEO) Kunal Dasgupta said the network would now start its own sports channel, "once it has a sufficient number of sports properties."
Ten Sports sources said that negotiations were in fact continuing with SET and that there were no valuation issues since the two sides had agreed to the figure of $120mn.
"The calling off of negotiations is one way of pressuring us," the source said. Meanwhile, Taj Television has opened up negotiations with Zee Telefilms (ZTL) as an alternative equity partner.
According to SET sources the talks—continuing for nearly 3 years now—broke down as the Ten Sports team tried to drive up the price beyond the agreed $90 mn.
On the other hand, Ten Sports sources said while valuations had been agreed on, terms in the share holders' agreement hit a snag.
In a written communication addressed to Abdur Rehman Bukhatir, chief promoter of Taj Television, Andy Kaplan, Sony Pictures' President—International Networks, said: "I just wanted to take this moment to close the loop on what has been a long and interesting journey. And while it didn't end up as we had hoped, I wanted to express my gratitude for the time and work put in by your team. In business, sometimes the deals close and sometimes they don't."
Chris McDonald, the Dubai based CEO of Taj Television, did not comment on Sony pulling out but said his company was "still talking to various parties for a possible stake divestment."
Kunal Dasgupta, Sony India's CEO, confirmed that Sony had withdrawn its pitch for a 50 per cent stake for the sports network, and said SET would be launching its own sports channels once it has sufficient cricket programming.
"Without cricket there is no sports channel in India," he said. When it was pointed out that SET had not been bidding strongly for various sports recently, he said, "We are financially strong and are going to chase cricket aggressively," he added.
Sony Entertainment Television is a 65:35 JV between the LA-based Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and a consortium of Indian partners. Taj Television, headquartered in Dubai, has the cricket telecast rights for West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.