By CricketCountry Staff
Mumbai: Feb 28, 2012
After terminating their contract with Nimbus Communications Ltd due to non-payment of dues, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has started seeking bids for the broadcast rights of cricket matches played in India.
This move comes even as the Indian cricket team’s performance has suffered in recent tours to England and Australia. However, experts say that and exhaustion from an overdose of cricket could make it unattractive to bid the Rs. 31.5 crore a match that Nimbus was paying to BCCI.
Nimbus had signed a four-year deal with BCCI in October 2009, but couldn’t make manage the timely payments to the board.
A top BCCI official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the document seeking bids was being prepared and should be out in a week’s time. BCCI is believed to have offered Nimbus Communications a settlement in its dispute over broadcast rights for cricket in India, according to a report in a sports website. Nimbus and the board are now sparring over the termination and the treatment of a Rs. 2,000 crore bank guarantee submitted by the former to the latter.
The official also said that no home series matches had yet been allotted to Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSM), the television broadcaster that is said to be launching a new sports channel. All bilateral cricket tour matches played in India will be involved in the bids, except those organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and BCCI’s Premier Twenty20 league, the IPL. In its letter to BCCI dated 22 February, sports broadcaster ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd said it was concerned about media reports suggesting that MSM’s new sports channel will telecast the home matches.
“We hope the said report is merely speculative, and no such deal has actually been agreed by BCCI without the matter being discussed with other market players in general, and BCCI’s broadcast partners such as ESPN STAR Sports (ESS) in particular,” Anurag Dahiya, ESPN senior vice-president (corporate development and cricket rights), said in an email to Sanjay Jagdale, BCCI’s honorary secretary. “We seek your kind confirmation that no such deal has yet been agreed (upon),” said the mail, which Mint has reviewed.
In the email, ESS also expressed its interest in bidding for the rights to broadcast home matches.
“We are very hopeful that similar to the past, the rights will be awarded in an open and transparent manner such that all interested parties are given an equal opportunity to compete,” it said. “We would like to hereby formally confirm that ESS is interested in BCCI’s media rights, and would welcome an opportunity to engage in any commercial processes aimed at licensing the same.”
Ratnakar Shetty, chief administrative officer at BCCI, declined to comment. An ESPN spokesperson also declined to comment.
An executive at MSM said that their firm is also keen on the domestic rights, but denied media reports claiming it had already been given these by BCCI.
“But yes, we do plan to launch a sports channel immediately after the Indian Premier League,” added this person, who asked not to be identified because he’s not authorized to speak to the media. “We will be interested in any tender that BCCI floats and we will be interested in bidding for the media rights.”
Rohit Gupta, president of MSM, said both the new channel and the home series telecast rights were confidential matters.
Percept Ltd joint managing director Shailendra Singh, who has dealt with BCCI in the past, said there is a case for a “price correction”.
“In the recent past, sponsors have backed out of important cricket events. BCCI had to come to the negotiating table to hold on to Sahara as the Indian team sponsor,” he said. “The fact that sponsors are not lining up to associate with cricket has to be recognized. The cricket body should also account for the fact that some players from the existing team will move out and some instability will continue till a young, new team is in place by 2014.”
Another sports management executive said that recovering Rs. 31.5 crore a match isn’t easy.
“While the high-profile series between India and Pakistan or Australia attract advertisers, there are other games that do not break-even,” added this person, who did not want to be identified.
A second sports management executive, who also didn’t want to be named, pointed to a recent development as a variable that could make the business model work, even at Rs. 31.5 crore a match.