NEW DELHI: India’s Zee Entertainment has told Walt Disney it does not intend to move forward with a deal to pay around $1.4 billion for cricket TV rights it acquired from the U.S. company, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Zee told Indian stock exchanges in August that it had signed a strategic licence agreement with Disney to take over certain International Cricket Council TV broadcast rights for four years, starting in 2024, while the U.S. company would retain streaming rights.

“The deal is off … Zee said they are not in a position to pay,” one of the sources said. “Zee completely reneged on the rights.”

Zee did not respond to requests for comment while Disney declined to comment.

India’s Zee asks Sony to withdraw merger termination

The Indian company was to pay for the rights over time but it missed the first $200 million payment to Disney in recent weeks and told the U.S. company it was walking back on the deal, the two sources said on condition of anonymity.

The collapse of Zee’s planned merger with Sony’s Indian business this week also put paid to Zee’s TV rights deal with Disney, the sources said.

Zee faces mounting troubles, with the Sony merger collapse heaping pressure on one of India’s most popular TV networks to pursue deals with new partners or focus on areas such as digital entertainment to revive its fortunes, analysts and industry sources say.

The collapse of the Sony deal also leaves it facing a looming legal battle in addition to other regulatory, business and financial challenges.

Zee’s advertising revenues fell to $488 million for the 2022-23 year, compared with about $600 million five years ago. Cash reserves have dropped to $86 million from $116 million over the same period.


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