Nimbus Communications Pvt. Ltd, the Mumbai-based media, entertainment and sports company, has begun repackaging and broadcasting major domestic cricket tournaments to entice fans and sponsors.
The company, which paid $612 million (Rs2,705 crore) to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for exclusive telecast rights to all cricket matches played at home between 2007 and 2010, says local tournaments can make money if packaged well. Its exclusivity has been threatened by a government order to share feeds with state-run Doordarshan.
Nimbus’ latest announcement taps diehard cricket fans still hungry to watch lesser-known players and, if sponsors buy in, represents an additional revenue stream.
“There are enough avenues to recoup the investment,” said Shashi Kalathil, chief executive of Nimbus’s broadcasting arm, Neo Sports Broadcast Pvt. Ltd.
Earlier this month, Neo beamed the final of the inter-state Ranji Trophy tournament between Mumbai and Bengal. It began promoting the new logo for the inter-zone Deodhar Trophy during Sunday’s India-Sri Lanka face-off.
Neo spokeswoman Amrita Pai said the company had been rebranding the matches with bright logos and catchy slogans. Nimbus has also advised BCCI to schedule the domestic matches on holidays and Sundays to ensure an audience.
For instance, the Ranji final began on a Friday, and the Deodhar Trophy begins on 24 February, a Saturday.
Delhi-based lawyer Shyam Sharma set up a fan club dubbed ‘Dada’s Army’, a tribute to the Bengali elder brother he dreams of in former captain Sourav Ganguly. “Regular coverage of domestic cricket, if packaged well, will definitely find sponsors,” he said. “For us fans, we will come to learn of new talent in the country.”
During the Ranji final, for example, Sharma admitted to being impressed with Bengal’s new sensation Manoj Tewari—a batsman who just missed a century in the match—a player previously unknown to him.
Analysts have their doubts, though. Prashant Kumar of media-buying house Mindshare said tournaments such as the upcoming Deodhar are not prime cricketing property, but added: “It’s a developing area for rating.”
This is not the first time a private broadcaster has tried to cash in on local tournaments. Zee Sports has tied up with the football authorities to create a new property, the National Football League, which features top football clubs across India. Similarly, ESPN-Star Sports started the Premier Hockey League, which found sponsors in Western Union and ING Vysya Life Insurance.
Yet, unlike those, Neo isn’t creating a new property. It is counting on its distribution partnership with Star Sports, the largest network among sports broadcasters, to reach the maximum number of viewers.