No cricket on DD as Nimbus refuses to buckle

MUMBAI: In what is a first on Indian Television, a home cricket series kicked off today without the telecast being available on national broadcaster Doordarshan and All India Radio.

India's victorious start to the four-match Pepsi series One-Day International series against the West Indies at Nagpur was not available on terrestrial television as well as on cable homes that did not carry the Nimbus owned Neo Sports channel.

With talks breaking down yesterday between Prasar Bharati and Nimbus Sports on sharing the live feed, the industry was waiting to see whether the government would push through an ordinance to implement the Downlinking/Uplinking Guidelines issued by the information & broadcasting ministry in November 2005.

The guidelines make it compulsory for sports telecast rights holder channels to share the live feed of important sporting events with Doordarshan and AIR by entering into a commercial agreement. The terms provide for revenue sharing of 75:25 in favour of the rights holders.

Nimbus Sports, the rights holders for the BCCI organized cricket events in India, had offered to give the feed to the pubcaster, but only under certain specific conditions, and these were not acceptable to the Prasar Bharati.

Nimbus suggested a 15 minute deferred telecast on Doordarshan's terrestrial channel referred 'as live'. Thus, people having cable TV would get live feed on Neo Sports and those watching DD would see it 15 minutes later.

Nimbus also did not agree to DD showing the matches on its DTH platform DD Direct Plus.


Nimbus has said if at all it shares the feed, the signals have to be encrypted so that it reaches houses only on the terrestrial network and not those that get DD signals through cable TV.

Nimbus today offered a way out of the impasse by declaring it was ready to provide the live feed if Prasar Bharati agreed to encrypt its signals in the next two to three weeks.

"Till such time as DD puts encryption into place, about 2-3 weeks, Nimbus has offered to provide the live coverage TV signal to DD," Nimbus chief Harish Thawani has been quoted by Zee News as saying from Mumbai.

"We are highly committed and want to provide the cricket telecasts on DD also. The ball is in DD`s court," he said.

Thawani said Nimbus was insisting on encryption as the satellites used by DD have significant signal dispersion into many neighbouring countries, often as far as the Middle East and Singapore.

"The growth of sports in any country is substantially dependent on the revenues it gets from sports channels and those revenues would be substantially destroyed if the rights of sports channels are not protected, having a terrible impact on sport itself," Thawani argued.

Till now though, Prasar Bharati officials, citing previous government orders and court rulings that they claim have gone in their favour, have been adamant that they should get live feed of the cricket series, without any conditions, and that it also be shared on DD's DTH platform.

Following the breakdown of talks DD officials have gone back to taking the cover of the Uplink-Downlink Guidelines that perforce allow DD to get the telecast feed.

The ball is now really in the government's court on what its next move will be.

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