Nimbus pegs 2-channel package price at Rs 58

MUMBAI: With the Conditional Access System (CAS) controversy continuing unabated at the broadcasters' level, Nimbus Sports Broadcast has quoted a premium price for two of its channels at Rs 58 to the sector regulator.

The newly launched Neo Sports, which debuted on 1 October in some parts of the country, is likely to turn pay ahead of the January 2007 cricket series. This company has priced this channel at Rs 40.

Even, the yet-to be launched Neo Sports Plus holds a price tag of Rs 40. The company has specified a bundled price of Rs 58 for the two channels.

The proposed prices are yet to be accepted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which in the normal course takes about one month to issue procedural clearance. Interestingly, rival sports channels ESPN and Star Sports are priced at Rs 38 per subscriber for the two-channel bundle.

The rates at which the two Neo Sports have been pegged are in line with what Nimbus Communications chairman Harish Thawani had told in a recent interview: "We are looking to charge a premium price. Broadcasters so far have not had the guts to charge the price that they feel reflects the true value of their product. What I can confirm is that our pricing will be considerably higher than ESPN Star Sports."

TDSAT had earlier directed that the rates of the channels available on the direct to home platform (DTH) will cost half the price of what is charged to cable platforms (exclusive of taxes).

This benchmark judgment was issued with respect to Dish TV vs Star India, wherein the two were haggling over price. The reason for the verdict was attributed to DTH being an addressable system where loss of revenue down the value chain is negligible if not zero.

The distribution rights for all Nimbus' sports channels are held by Rupert Murdoch's Star India and run till 2010. The Star-Nimbus distribution deal will apply to the two sports channels that will be launching by the end of the year as well as any future sports channels from the Neo Sports stable (a sports news channel is also in the pipeline scheduled for debut in the second half of 2007).

Although Nimbus has proposed the prices of its channels to Trai, it has already created doubts in the minds of the various stakeholders, whether this would be easily accepted by the regulator and if yes, whether it will go down well with the industry.

Under the CAS notified areas, the two Nimbus channels will be charged as per the ceiling price fixed by Trai.

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