Television

Nimbus shuts out Sky, series on PPV in UK

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MUMBAI: The James Murdoch-led BSkyB DTH operator in the UK has become the first broadcast platform to take a hit after Nimbus Communications won the telecast rights to India cricket for the next four years.

England's India tour officially kicks off on 1 March with the first Test in Nagpur, and one certainty is that the action will not be available to regular Sky Sport TV viewers. It will be available on Sky only as a pay per view (PPV) option, which will be too expensive a proposition for a large number of subscribers.

BBC's radio listeners need not worry though. The British pubcaster has reached a deal with Nimbus after forking out $ 1 million that covers two England away tours to India during the period 1 March, 2006 to 31 March, 2010. That includes the current series (three Tests and seven ODIs) and one more. For the BBC this comes as a huge relief because it has trumpeted its radio coverage since losing TV rights at home.

As Nimbus boss Harish Thawani makes his first moves to get a return on the whopping $612.18 million he has committed to secure the BCCI cricket rights, it is becoming amply clear that the costs of getting India cricket are going to skyrocket for broadcast platforms around the world.

The terms of the deal that Nimbus has signed for the UK territory, according to sources close to the developments, are as follows: Live telecast of the current series will be available only on PPV, but England's next tour to India in 2008, which also involves three Tests and seven ODIs, will be on Channel 4. The remaining tours to India (by the other Test playing nations) will be broadcast on Sony Entertainment Television and Pakistan's Geo TV in the UK.

According to information available with Indiantelevision.com, the total amount that Nimbus has been able to extract through these tie-ups (television and radio rights) for the UK territory stands at a little under $ 26 million.

For Sky meanwhile, these developments couldn't have come at a worse time. It is already facing a barrage of criticism after securing exclusive live rights to televise England's home matches from this year on. A scathing report issued by members of Britain's parliament end-January has declared that the deal to hand exclusive Test match broadcasting rights to BSkyB from 2006 could sound the "death knell" for live coverage of international cricket on free television, warning it "may never again" be seen outside pay-to-view channels.

This will provide only additional ammunition to critics, many of whom would say that since BSkyB have the home rights, the away matches are less important to them.

Speaking earlier to the UK's Sunday Telegraph, Thawani had said, "We find the terms offered by Sky Sports to be singularly unattractive. We will demonstrate there are some alternatives for cricket in the UK. Their [Sky Sports'] monopoly has just ended."

Sunday Telegraph quoted Thawani as saying that the highlights of England's three Tests in India will be shown either on Channel Four, who used to broadcast England's home Test matches until last September, or Channel Five, who will be showing the highlights of England's home Tests from next summer.

In the past, BSkyB has secured rights for matches involving India and England for well short of £1million. This time round though, reports coming in the British press quoting industry insiders said Nimbus had hiked its asking price to over £5 million. BSkyB has had a virtual monopoly on England's overseas Tests for over 10 years.

While Nimbus' moves will have left some in the UK gnashing their teeth, what Thawani will announce on Wednesday as regards the local telecast partner is what every broadcast executive in India is awaiting with bated breath.

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