The Mumbai-based Nimbus Communications Ltd, which has successfully renegotiated its $612 billion (Rs25.09 trillion) deal with Indian cricket authorities for telecast rights to all matches played at home through 2010, has now been granted rights to broadcast four upcoming matches in Ireland as well.
At a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) vice-president Lalit Modi said Nimbus would pay $6.05 million per match against South Africa and Ireland beginning on 26 June in Belfast.
Nimbus was awarded the rights after media mogul Subhash Chandra’s Zee Telefilms Ltd on Wednesday called off negotiations with BCCI for telecast rights to India matches in neutral venues for five years, saying it was not interested unless rates were renegotiated. The series in Ireland is part of the 25 matches for which Zee had acquired the telecast rights at $225 million last year.
Nimbus saw a negotiation breakdown of its own on Wednesday. It was talking to the Asian Cricket Council for the Afro-Asian Cup to be played in Bangalore and Chennai this month. ESPN Star Sports has now bagged the worldwide rights for telecasting the second edition of the tournament, involving players from Asian and African countries.
Nimbus’ selection, anticipated in industry circles before the BCCI announcement represents a bargain price per match, compared to Zee’s per-match breakdown of $9 million per match.
The formal announcement, however, buried the hopes of the Dubai-based sports broadcaster Ten Sports, which was keen on the telecast rights to the matches in Ireland. Analysts say there’s a strong reason for the interest: cricket, as a brand, is still strong in India, keeping broadcasters ever interested in cornering a slice of the telecast rights pie.
But with the rights to all matches at home being acquired by broadcaster Nimbus through March 2010, and those to all international matches organized by the International Cricket Council by the ESPN Star Sports combine through the 2115 World Cup, there’s only one avenue left for the hopefuls: contests involving the Indian team at neutral venues.
Despite the obvious lack of interest among fans, media expert and chairman of Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd Sam Balsara says he didn’t think the board would face any problem roping in broadcasters.
But Ten Sports wasn’t to be the chosen one—the broadcaster is part owned by Zee’s Chandra, whose relationship with the BCCI is at an all-time low. Last year, Chandra’s Zee Telefilms acquired a 50% stake in Ten Sports promoter Taj TV at a reported value of $114 million.
“If the board has formally ended its contract with Zee, (and) if it’s contractually able to talk to other broadcasters, then of course we are interested in any international cricket rights,” Ten Sports executive director Peter Hutton said on Thursday morning.
A few months ago, Chandra announced a parallel cricket league outside the board’s purview, virtually challenging the authorities.
Then, on Wednesday, Zee Telefilms broke off talks after the BCCI refused to renegotiate rates. Zee Sports vice-president of marketing Gaurav Seth says the broadcaster felt the rates were not economical.
“A certain amount of negotiation is bound to occur,” adds Balsara.