Television

Next big cricket fight: ad sales, production & international rights

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MUMBAI: The Indian telecast rights issue continues to provide ever new twists in the tale. Yesterday's interim ruling by the Madras High Court may mean that the telecast feed of the upcoming India-Pakistan cricket series goes to pubcaster Prasar Bharati for free, but there is still money to be made on air time sales, award of the production contract and the sale of international telecast rights.

It is on this that the attention of competing lobbies within the Indian cricket board, as well as interested broadcasters and sports marketing agencies, is now firmly fixed.

NIMBUS OFFERS MINIMUM $ 33 MILLION FOR COMPOSITE RIGHTS

The first off the blocks as it were appears to have been Nimbus Communications chairman Harish Thawani, who shot of a letter to BCCI president Ranbir Singh Mahendra offering a deal in a "range of estimate is from $ 33 - 45 million".

As per the letter sent to the BCCI, a copy of which has been obtained by indiantelevision.com, the payout Nimbus is offering to the board is based on the following calculations:

Net Revenue from Advertising Sales of Broadcasting within India - Rs 1.1 billion ($25 million) Net Revenue from Sale of International Rights - Rs 352 million ($8 million)

This totals $ 33 million. Nimbus has also offered a sweetener wherein it states that the contract "can be procured by us and it is

entirely possible that this revenue may rise to as much as $ 45 million depending upon the quality of coverage, type of the matches, swiftness in decision making, etc."

The letter states that Nimbus "would be happy to provide detailed offers in response to any invitation to tender from the BCCI and within 24 hours if required."

Thawani's company has also offered to do the TV production for "much less than $1.5 million, depending on the number of cameras and associated value added components of coverage."

Among the other players who have indicated interest on record are broadcasters Sony Entertainment and Dubai-based Ten Sports.

SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta has been quoted by PTI as saying, "We are interested to produce the series and would approach the BCCI on the matter."

Dasgupta says Sony, which got international rights for 31 cricketing days in 2004, would also be pitching for the same this time too. Interestingly, Dasgupta had told indiantelevision.com earlier that Sony was unlikely to pitch for the international rights if the C&S telecast rights for the Indian territory were not part of the proposition.

Also making pitches, according to industry sources, are Pakistan-based broadcast company ARY Digital and sports marketing firm TWI.

When asked by indiatelevision.com what the response of the board to the Nimbus proposal was, Mahendra, without confirming or denying having received any communication from Thawani, said, "I cannot comment on any specific offer. The working committee of the board will take a decision on these issues over the next two to three days."

Meanwhile, there is pressure coming in from other fronts as well. According to industry sources, a special general body meeting of the BCCI is being requisitioned demanding a full debate on the matter.

Additionally, Indiantelevision.com is in possession of copies of letters from two state associations affiliated to the BCCI who have dashed off missives to the board president raising concerns about the potential of further loss of revenues if what happened during the last two series (India Vs Australia and India Vs South Africa) in October-November were to be repeated.

RCA CHIEF LALIT MODI SUGGESTS CONTRACTS BE AWARDED THROUGH SHORT TENDER

One letter came from newly elected president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association Lalit Modi (head of Modi Enterprises), who on Monday ended the three-decade rein of Jagmohan Dalmiya faction loyalist Kishore Rungta.

Modi suggested that the ad sales rights be handed over to independent agencies. Modi alluded to DD's offer of Rs 800 million minimum guarantee as a pittance and stated that a short tender would fetch over Rs 1.75 billion.

According to Modi, the potential revenues from overseas rights was in the region Rs 500 million.

Modi's formula: Award contracts through a short notice tender process.

PCB CHIEF BINDRA CALLS FOR BCCI WORKING COMMITTEE MEETING

Weighing in to the dispute was also Punjab Cricket Association president IS Bindra who demanded an emergent meeting of the working committee to "take appropriate decisions".

Bindra, in his letter to Mahendra referred to the offer from Nimbus when he stated the event management companies were offering a guaranteed amount of $ 45 million within the legal parameters of the court order. Bindra also suggested short notice tenders be issued for production, airtime sales and marketing and international rights. All tenders should be backed by irrevocable bank guarantees, the PCB chief added.

In his letter, Bindra also criticised the award of international rights for the Australia/Pakistan series to Sony for a "paltry" Rs 300 million.

When Mahendra's attention was drawn to the letters sent by Modi and Bindra, he, however, tersely refused comment.

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