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January 21, 2007
Cricket fans in India may have to reconcile themselves to missing out more matches in the near future with no solution in sight to the deadlock between Nimbus and Prasar Bharati for telecast of India's home games over the next few weeks. Millions of fans missed the first match of the India-West Indies series on Sunday - telecast live on Neo Sports, a channel owned and recently launched by Nimbus - and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which sold the rights to Nimbus last year, says it will stand by the rights holder if the matter goes to court.
Even as India's Information and Broadcasting minister called Nimbus's decision "unpatriotic", Shashank Manohar, the BCCI vice-president, said that Nimbus might approach the Supreme Court to resolve the issue and the board, having entered into a contract with the television house, would be a "joint petitioner" in the case.
"BCCI is supporting Neo Sports and Nimbus. They have paid so much money to get the telecast rights. Nimbus is going to the Supreme Court and we might be a joint petitioner to it," Manohar said on the sidelines of the series opener at the VCA stadium. He also hoped the issue would be sorted out before the second one-dayer, in Cuttack on January 24.
Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, also said the board would stand by Nimbus. "We may be a party because our contracts are with them (Nimbus)," Shah said. "Prasar Bharati has got the highest reach in the country and Nimbus wanted to give them territorial rights as per rules and regulations. We hope that an amicable solutions comes out."
At the heart of the dispute is Prasar Bharati's refusal to encrypt the feed given by Nimbus and the insistence on telecasting the matches both on its terrestrial channel Doordarshan (DD) and its DTH service. However, Nimbus - which bagged the rights last year for $612 million for a four-year period - has said Prasar Bharati can telecast the matches to only those homes which are connected through the terrestrial network.
Nimbus is believed to have offered DD a 75-25 revenue-sharing deal, which has been implemented in the past, and also the option of a 15-minute delay feed instead of live cricket.
"We refuse to accept the conditions put up by Prasar Bharti and if these are not sorted out, we will not share the feed with them," Harish Thawani, the Nimbus chairman, said on Saturday.
The problem was not restricted to homes with only terrestrial TV; even those in metros subscribing to direct-to-home (DTH) TV missed out on Sunday's action. Manohar said Prasar Bharati's conditions to Nimbus included free feed to DTH services, which Nimbus has objected to.
Officials of DTH companies Tata Sky and Dish TV were quoted by The Times of India as saying they were negotiating with the broadcasters on a deal for the rest of the series.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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