India news March 31, 2012

BCCI gets four bids for cricket rights in India

The BCCI has received at least four bids for the broadcast, internet and mobile rights to cricket in India for the period July 2012 - March 2018, ESPNcricinfo has learned. The companies believed to have submitted bids are ESPN Star Sports* (ESS), Multi-Screen Media (Sony), Bennett Coleman, which owns the Times of India, and a consortium involving TV-18 and Reliance.

The bids are being closely watched as they will provide an indication of how valuable the market considers the rights given the board's cancellation of its previous contract with Nimbus Communications over payment problems coupled with the recent poor performances of the Indian team. The bidding period closed on March 26 and the bids are due to be opened on April 2.

Multi-Screen Media has plans to launch a sports channel (likely to be called Six according to Business Standard) and the rights to Indian cricket would give the company a second marquee property after the IPL. MSM also has the rights to FA Cup football and the NBA. ESS, the market leader among sports broadcasters in India, owns the rights to ICC events, as well as the domestic rights for Australia and England. Landing the India rights would give them a virtual stranglehold on premium cricket properties.

According to market sources, Bennett Coleman are likely to bid for the internet and mobile rights rather than the television rights. The company currently owns the internet rights for the IPL in conjunction with Nimbus.

The board was forced to issue a new tender after it terminated its contract with Nimbus in December 2011, claiming the latter had defaulted on its payments. The matter has subsequently been referred for arbitration, with the Bombay High Court ruling that Nimbus must deposit Rs 305 crores (approx US$60 million) with the court as security for the amount the BCCI claims it is owed by the company. Nimbus has also made a counter-claim of Rs 600 crores (approx US$118 million) from the board.

The BCCI's marketing committee set the price for category A games at Rs 31.25 crores per match (approx $6.1 million) plus Rs 1 crore (approx $0.2 million) while category B games were set at Rs 34 crores (approx $6.67 million) plus Rs 1 crore. However, committee chairman Farooq Abdullah did not specify which of the game's three formats fall under each category, nor why a separate rate of Rs 1 crore was mentioned, though one possibility is that the latter is the base price for the digital rights. The contract with Nimbus had a base price of Rs 31.25 crores (approx $6.1 million) per game for each of the three formats purely for the broadcast rights.

The board did attempt to sell the internet rights separately last year, but the tender found no takers at the initial base price of Rs 3 crores (approx $0.6 million) or its subsequently reduced price of Rs 2 crores (approx $0.4 million).

*ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between Walt Disney (ESPN, Inc.), the parent company of ESPNcricinfo, and News Corporation Limited (STAR)

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo