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Nimbus? offer puts off bidders

Networks back off as telecast producer bucks trend of multi-year contracts, writes Gurbir Singh.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2006 20:15 IST

Nimbus, the sports marketing and production company, is expected to carve out the telecast rights for the Indian television market to four or five broadcasters and not license it to a single broadcaster as has been the practice so far.

Doordarshan is high in the running for both satellite and terrestrial telecast rights, while the Sun network -- that has several south-based regional language channels -- is also said to be a frontrunner.

With the India-England Test series beginning in Nagpur from March 1, this arrangement will only add to the confusion of viewers who are yet to find out which channel will beam live the matches.

A spokesperson on behalf of Zee Sports told HT that the network was not interested if the rights were sold series wise rather than a 4-year contractual arrangement. ESPN-Star Sports and Sony Entertainment Television are believed to have taken the same stance.

The business model being followed by Nimbus is likely to see telecast rights being sold to the Indian channels per series rather than the normal four or five-year licensing arrangement. Nimbus alternatively is also exploring launching a sports channel, industry sources said.

Nimbus’ aim is to juice maximum revenue out of the BCCI’s universal telecast rights. On the other hand, industry observers fear this could boomerang as advertisers are not clear what their money would fetch considering that cricket will be telecast on a non-exclusive basis by several channels.

Meanwhile, UK’s Murdoch-owned Sky Sports has won the rights for broadcasting cricket in India for a consideration close to $30 million (Rs 135 crore). The telecast rights will include the India-England series as well nine other series in India till 2009.

Of these, Sky Sports will have exclusive rights for the UK market for the two India-England series (including the current contest and one in 2009). But the other eight series will be non-exclusive.

An official Nimbus statement said rights for the eight series played in India but not featuring the English side would also be “licensed to a south Asian language network”.

Nimbus recently won the universal rights for international and domestic cricket played in India for a huge $613 million (Rs 2,750 crore). Though Nimbus will slice the worldwide rights into as many territories and platforms as possible to maximize recovery, the India television rights will command a lion’s share of the package. Industry observers told HT that Nimbus must recover at least $480 million from the Indian market if the whole deal is to make business sense.

The first of the long-term deals reached by Nimbus Sports was with Sky Sports, and was inked on Thursday night.

Four former England captains -- Mike Atherton, Ian Botham, David Gower and Nasser Hussain -- are flying out this weekend to join Nimbus’ commentary team in India, a company statement said.

Nimbus Sports’ Digvijay Singh said that in an effort to multiply its revenue sources, the company reached agreements with leading broadcast platforms in major territories including the US, Canada and the Caribbean.

It has also signed separate deals for smaller markets like Malaysia, Singapore and even Greece and Fiji.

The contracting process for most of these deals is expected to be completed by Monday, Singh said.