Nimbus wins India cricket telecast rights with $612 million winning bid

MUMBAI: The Indian cricket board announced today that Nimbus Communications Ltd has won the telecast rights to India cricket for the next four years after putting in a humungous $612.18 million composite bid.

Nimbus Communications' bid breaks down as $ 504.09 million for the India territory rights and $ 108.09 million for international territory rights. This is nearly $ 200 million higher than the base price of $425 million that had been set by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). Nimbus also clinched the television production rights last week for all international and domestic matches in India.

The announcement was made after the tallying of the bids in the presence of the BCCI marketing committee and the bidders. The period for which the rights are valid are from 1 March, 2006 to 31 March, 2010.

And what does Nimbus get in terms of telecast opportunities for the payout it has made? The cricketing schedule over the four years that the rights are valid for includes 23 test matches and 54-56 ODIs, subject to ratification by the ICC.

Nimbus Communications' composite bid was far higher any which way you slice and dice it than the sum of the parts total which came to $ 550.49 million. This breaks up as follows: ESPN Software $ 401.89 million for the India territory, Nimbus Sports International Pte Ltd $ 126.18 million for international territories, Ad Labs Ltd $ 14.8 million for radio rights, and Reliance Infocomm $ 7.8 million for broadband rights. Zee Telefilms, with a composite $ 513 million global bid, could therefore effectively be said to have put in the third highest bid.

Echostar Satellite Ltd, meanwhile, put in a $35 million tender for US, Canada, Caribbean all media and for international broadband rights outside India.

Two of the bidders --- SET Satellite Singapore Pte ($478 million global and $397 million India) and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) --- were disqualified because they had caveats included in their bids. BCCI vice-president and marketing panel chairman Lalit Modi had clearly specified yesterday at the time of submission of tenders that any conditions or caveats introduced as adjuncts to any bid would mean automatic disqualification.

The sheer scale of revenues that the BCCI has been able to extract from its cricket property thus far works out to a mind-boggling $ 752 million (Rs 33.54 billion). That is Rs 27.24 billion for the media rights, Rs 4.15 billion through selling the team sponsor rights to Sahara and Rs 2.15 billion for sale of kit sponsor rights to Nike.

Drawing a comparison with the value of the same rights for the previous four years, Modi pointed out that there had been a massive ten-fold jump in net worth.

"This has happened because of the transparency that the BCCI has insisted upon, going forward. We did not disqualify anybody because they were a marketing agent or a channel," said Modi.

Modi also made a pointed reference to the recent government legislation on must provide for national broadcaster Doordarshan. Said Modi, "There was a lot of talk around the new legislation enacted by the government of India in terms of the downlinking norms that the rights fee would go down. You can all see today that even with the new legislation in place, the rights fee has not only gone up, it's gone up multiple fold.

This is not all however, as far as the money that the now seriously cash overloaded Indian cricket board hopes to extract out of this property. Modi says that the BCCI has withheld from the purview of the tender mobile telephony rights, IPTV rights, all future technologies including ADSL, archive rights after a 72-hour period and public exhibition and film rights.

The schedule: In total there are 23 test matches and 54-56 ODIs subject to ratification by the ICC and 72 days of domestic cricket.

It starts with England coming down soon to play three tests and seven ODIs. In 2007 there is a tri-series with West Indies and Sri Lanka at the start of that year. Australia play seven ODIs. Pakistan play three tests and seven ODIs. South Africa play four tests. Some ODIs may also be thrown in for the South Africa series in which case one test match will not be played.

In 2008, Australia play a test series. England come down for three tests and seven ODIs.

In 2009 Australia once again come down for seven ODIs. Sri Lanka play three test matches and seven ODIs. The contract concludes with South Africa playing three test matches and five ODIs.

Production Values: On the production side, Modi says that this is the first time that Indian cricket will be produced in HDTV for some markets. Its logo will be carried on all channels. At least 25 cameras will be used to cover matches. New technology, some of which has not been used to cover India cricket before like Dartfish, Snickometer, will be in operation to enhance the viewing experience. The BCCI will also have 72 days of domestic cricket. Through an earlier announced deal with Nimbus the BCCI managed to bring down the production costs from $125,000 a day to $102,000. The BCCI expects to save $4-6 million on a like to like basis. Modi stressed that Nimbus was a clear winner here also.

The complete list of bids submitted yesterday reads as follows: Nimbus Communications Ltd, Nimbus Sports International Pte Ltd, Zee Telefilms, ESPN Software Ltd, SET Satellite Singapore Pte, Reliance Infocomm, Ad Labs Ltd (Reliance's FM arm), British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) Ltd and Echostar Satellite Ltd.

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