Neo Sports launches 1 October; looks to lock in 8 sponsors to 5-year deals

MUMBAI: Nimbus has announced that its cricket centric TV channel Neo Sports, positioned as "The Home of Indian Cricket on TV" will debut on 1 October with the Challenger Series for NKP Salve Trophy.

Nimbus Communications chairman Harish Thawani tells, "Our internal benchmarks are the soft launch on 1 October, commercial launch on 1 November. 1 January 2007 is when we want to arrive as a globally benchmarked competitive sports network. Before that date comes I can say that we will have eight sponsors locked in on five year contracts. They want it. People approach us and say, 'When do we sit down and do a five year deal?'

"Between the eight sponsors that we will have locked in, 60 per cent of the channel’s inventory will have been snapped up.

"They do not believe in the artificial division of three and a half or four years. The momentum anyway gets carried to the next period. The eight charter partners will enjoy the best positions and exclusivity on cricket advertising."
Soon after the comercial launch of Neo Sports, will come a second channel Neo Sports Plus, which will look to converge somewhere between sports and entertainment. And some time in the second half of 207 will come the sports news channel - Neo Sports News.

Speaking about Neo Sports Plus, Thawani says, "We had earlier scheduled to launch it in the second quarter of 2007 which is April – June. But I can confirm that we are likely to bring that forward. We have been able to get ready faster. It is running ahead of schedule. For Neo Sports, the momentum will start building up towards the end of December just ahead of the first major international series."

Neo Sports has entered into an exclusive distribution tie-up with Star India, which will roll out over 10,000 decoders in the coming weeks to take Neo Sports across the length and breadth of this country. The channel will be available on Cable, DTH and new media platforms.

Speaking about the pricing for the two channels, Thawani says, "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.

"Neo Sports is premium not just in cricket but also in product feel, the technology investment we are making. We are building up for high definition ready. We are the first company to install complete station automation software for the channel from day one. When you invest and create a premium product you expect premium pricing."

Neo Sports will focus on various cricket related programming, live coverage of both domestic and international cricket, interviews with top cricketers, analysis and sports entertainment. Neo Sports subscribers, specifically for domestic cricket, would be able to enjoy features like top angle shots and pan vision, speedometer, 3D animation and graphics, spin vision camera for tight bowl vision and spin action, informs an official release.

Neo Sports will broadcast on an average three international cricket series every year featuring India and six domestic tournaments, in addition to which it will broadcast several other international cricket matches. It promises to broadcast close to 150 days a year of live cricket.

Among the key people who have recently joined Neo Sports include Shashi Kalathil as CEO, Hitesh Sabharwal as VP affiliate sales, Ranjith Rajasekharan as VP marketing, Shakeel Memon as creative director and Sonali Rege as GM production.

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