The cricket broadcasting applecart is likely to see a a shake-up. The distribution tie-up between Harish Thawani's Nimbus, which won the lucrative television rights for all international cricket matches till 2010(it bid $ 612.18 million) in India, and Star TV has sent seasoned players like ESPN-STAR and Ten Sports on a leather hunt.
The Nimbus-Star TV combine, called Neo TV, which came from the blue to bag over 45-60 days of international cricket in India annually for the next four years, is on the top of the charts.
Nimbus had earlier tied up with Sahara One for the domestic India-England series held in March earlier this year. But with Nimbus, to launch two channels by end of 2006, is now going ahead with an alliance with Star TV.
The Thawani-owned company has lined up over 100 days of cricket per year which apart from international matches in India, would also include the domestic cricket tournaments. With 3-4 international teams touring India each year, it translates to roughly 45-60 days of the international cricket.
In contrast ESPN-STAR has 95 days of international cricket featuring India matches till 2008. These include India's tours of Australia in November 2006, to England in July, Australia next year and of course the Asia Cup in mid-2008.
The broadcaster has exclusive telecast rights in England, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but they will all come up for rebidding in 2008. Industry analysts say these rights would be hotly contested and retaining them could determine the fate of the ESPN-Star.
Ten Sports, on the other hand, has contacts to exclusively cover events in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies, while Sony has 55 days of Indian cricket in the ICC Champions Trophy in October this year and the World Cup in March 2007.
ZEE Sports, the last entrant in the club, is perhaps the biggest loser. It had made a staggering $-219.95 million bid for the rights of matches between India and Pakistan, Australia, England and West Indies on neutral grounds the world over. That venture was stopped by the courts. It now has only 45 days of cricket till 2010. Analysts say there
could be some hard times ahead for the channel.
With new equations in the sports television business analysts say there could be a major shakeup.
"There is bound to be a shakeout in the (sports) segment as it is expensive and requires a specific skill set where only the players with pedigree will survive. We don't have room for 7-8 sports channels as that sort of quantum just isn't available," R C Venkateish, managing director, ESPN-STAR had earlier said.
Concurs Samir Kale, managing director, CMCG India, a sports public relation consultancy. "There has to be consolidation as sports broadcasting is an expensive proposition. Too high a fragmentation of properties doesn't make enough dough for anyone," he said.
However, not everyone agrees. Ten Sports' managing director said, "As more players come and innovate in content and packaging, the consumption for sports category would also grow. The FIFA World Cup has become a phenomenon that could not be imagined five years ago."
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