'In 3 yrs, there will only be 2 sports b'casters who will have any kind of market share'

Other rights like ICC come up for grabs. Is Nimbus chasing these properties or is India cricket sufficient with other smaller properties?

We will evaluate all opportunities as they come up. The ICC has currently started a process of inviting companies for discussions. Once details are made available on what the opportunity is a commercial decision will be taken.


There is talk that the ICC rights might go for a billion dollars or more. In 2011 when India hosts the World cup DTH will have taken off, condition access will be in, IPTV, Mobile TV might have come in. So it might be worth the price. Your thoughts?

I don't think that there is a sticker price. It is not like a Bata showroom where they advertise the price. Talking about price is a question of speculation.

Someone might speculate that it will go for less than last time. Another person might speculate that it will go for more. In 2011 there might not be five sports broadcasters in this country.

There might be two or one or ten. Crystal ball gazing on price for products that are going eight years forward is even more difficult than crystal ball gazing on the BCCI rights that went four and a half years forward. With ICC it might go for half a billion (dollars) or even five billion when there is speculation of one billion. There will be some interesting turns and twists.


On the distribution front could you talk about your deal with Star? The deal with Star gives strength to their bouquet as they now have a complete array of products to offer.

We have India's strongest possible distribution partner. Their knowledge, skills, market relationships, powerful array of channels, augers well for us. They have assured us that they will be able to roll us out in four to five million homes on day one. This is very impressive.

We are going free view for one month. We will not pay carriage fee for Neo Sports. Cricket is a solid product. When Neo Sports Plus launches we might consider paying carriage fee. We have seeded 10,000 decoders in the market. Star is looking at us to push DTH.


There was a report that indicated that Nimbus has managed to get a little over $350 million from Star as MG on the distribution front. Any comment.

We have not quoted any figures. I question the wisdom of the industry or amateur observer to break everything down into figures. Eight hours a day, 1,500 crores (Rs 15 billion) of MG, four years of rights. It suggests that people do not have the ability to understand the industry beyond kindergarten concepts. Why are these figures so magical? Why does it have to be four years of rights? Why not 25? Why not three?


There is industry talk about a shakeout happening in the sports broadcasting business as it is getting extremely expensive. Your thoughts.

I agree. The market is in a stage where consolidation is bound to happen. If that amounts to a shakeout or a voluntary consolidation remains to be seen. I forecast that in three years time there will only be two sports broadcasters who will have any kind of market share.

'The Rs 5 pay channel pricing is an issue on which the last word has not been heard yet. Industry will have to wait for the outcome on various pieces of litigation that are either being heard or filed'

But Tam data shows that Ten Sports is ahead week in and week out in the sports genre?

Ten Sports' gets high ratings primarily due to wrestling - WWE.

The channel is not delivering WWE numbers in the Hindi heartland or in the Tamil heartland. It is doing well in the big cities and the skew in the way in which the Tam data is measured tend to make Ten Sports look like a bigger network.

Take WWE away and Ten Sports will struggle on its GRPs. Advertisers do not want to be associated with wrestling.

I know this because we were offered a very good competing product to WWE. Before we took it we asked ourselves whether it fits in with our internal ethics code. The chances are no. But we are business minded.

If the consumer wants it we might have to look at it.

So we went to the advertiser and asked him if he was willing to put money on this product. The client said "No. It is not good for our brand to be seen in the context of a violent sport. With children we want to do things that have a good value. You want to do Disney, cricket, knowledge based shows like what is featured in National Geographic and Discovery."

WWE has got a very thin spread of advertising. Nimbus, meanwhile, will also stay away from boxing.


There is also the Rs 5 question of channel pricing in the CAS regime that Trai has announced. Your view?

This is an issue on which the last word has not been heard yet. The industry will have to wait for the outcome on the various pieces of litigation that are either being heard or filed. If it stays at Rs 5 then channels, sports federations will have to rethink their revenue models. Advertisers might have to pay more to compensate for the shortfall in subscription revenue. Employees may have to accept wage cuts across the board. There will be tectonic changes based on what many believe is an irrational price tag.

Broadcasting is not like telecom where the government leases out spectrum and so has a stake. The broadcasting sector is independent. Will the authorities take that into account? Will the courts intervene? Will Parliament intervene? This remains to be seen.

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