India news December 13, 2011

Nimbus says it complied with contractual obligations

ESPNcricinfo staff

A day after the BCCI reportedly terminated its contract with Nimbus Communications, the rights holders for cricket in India, there has still been no official statement from the board or Nimbus on whether their agreement has, in fact, been cancelled.

Nimbus, one of India's leading television marketing companies, did release a statement but said it could not discuss details of its contract with the BCCI. The statement said Nimbus could only "confirm that it has acted in compliance of its contractual obligations and variations agreed between the parties from time to time." One of the reported reasons for cancelling the contract, which was to run till 2014, was that Nimbus had run into issues regarding payments.

The company had reportedly asked the BCCI for an extension on their payment deadline recently. The board turned down the request and decided to scrap their deal at its working committee meeting in New Delhi on Monday.

Despite news of the termination of its contract, Nimbus' cricket channel Neo Cricket telecast the first day of the Ranji Trophy match between Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, though not the second day's play on Wednesday*. A BCCI official revealed that the board would begin discussions with Nimbus soon to ensure that Ranji Trophy games could be telecast until the end of the tournament on January 23. The BCCI owns the production rights of its domestic matches and has a separate deal with Nimbus to produce the live TV footage of domestic matches. Under this deal, Nimbus receives payment by the board.

The reports of the termination of the BCCI's contract with Nimbus has no direct effect on television coverage of India's international matches at home. The team's engagements in India have concluded for the next ten-odd months; the lengthy gap between the final ODI against West Indies and India's next scheduled home series in September, 2012 would give the BCCI plenty of time to solicit fresh bids for the India rights.

The first sign of payment problems with regard to television coverage of Indian cricket began this season on October 14. The telecast of the one-day international between India and England in Hyderabad started after three overs had already been bowled. This was due to a dispute over the payment of a bank guarantee from Neo Sports, Nimbus' channel, to Prasar Bharati, the government agency responsible for uplinking live telecasts out of India.

Nimbus also said it was working to resolve its differences with the board and was hopeful of reaching a solution over the next few weeks. At the same time, the company said it has "fully reserved all its rights and options, including of invoking the arbitration process if need be."

In January 2010, Nimbus was awarded Indian cricket broadcast rights for four years, its second consecutive four-year deal with the Indian board. The agreement was valued at approximately Rs 2000 crore (then $436 million) for a minimum of 64 international matches and 312 days of domestic cricket until 2014.

Nimbus also held the broadcasting rights for the previous four years, for which it paid $612 million - subsequently negotiated to $549 million - in February 2006.

*The story has been edited to include the fact that there was no broadcast of the Ranji Trophy on Neo Cricket on Wednesday, December 14.