Nimbus Communications Ltd, one of India's leading television marketing companies, has won the telecast rights to Indian cricket for the next four years after bidding US $612 million, the BCCI announced today.

The deal entitles Nimbus to global media rights including television, internet and broadband. Nimbus' prime contenders were ESPN Software Ltd (US$550 million) and Zee Telefilms (US$530 million). The floor price for the bidding was set at US$ 450 million. Interestingly, Nimbus, which is a marketing company, is now likely to resell the rights to one of the television channels which competed with it during the bidding process.

Incorporated in 1987, Nimbus is one of the leading companies in the media and entertainment sector. The company provides programming content to Doordarshan, the state-owned broadcaster, as well as to other private satellite channels. 3i, one of the biggest venture capital firms in the world, has about 31 percent stakes in Nimbus.

The rights include terrestrial rights in India, but it is explicit in BCCI's tender document that the right-holder will have to comply with the relevant government regulations with respect to sharing of rights with free terrestrial television in India. This means that either Nimbus or the television channel which buys the feed will have to do an independent deal with Prasar Bharati, which runs Doordarshan.

Harish Thawani, the Nimbus chief, said he will announce the channel on which the matches will be shown on February 20. Coverage under the new agreement starts with England's Test and one-day series, beginning on March 1.

Nimbus' winning the rights ends a period of uncertainty - almost a year-and-a-half with things reaching a nadir in the latter half of 2005 - when Indian cricket has been without a regular television-rights holder.

The global telecast rights package includes all television, including Indian terrestrial rights, radio and broadband internet rights on an exclusive basis. The licensee will have, during the contract period, the right to transmit, exhibit and distribute globally all audio, visual and textual material relating to BCCI-conducted events and to exploit them commercially.

The media rights commence from March 1, 2006 and expire on March 31, 2010 and will include 22 Tests and 55 ODIs. According to the schedule provided by the board, India will host during this period 6 Tests and 14 ODIs against England, 4 Tests and 12 ODIs against Australia, 3 Tests and 7 ODIs against Pakistan, 3 Tests and 5 ODIs against Sri Lanka and the same number against South Africa - an average of 5 Tests and 14 ODIs each season. India's opponents for Tests during January and October 2007 and in October 2009 are yet to be decided. So too their ODI opponents in October 2008.

Indian domestic cricket features in a big way in the rights and it will be binding on the rights-winner to ensure live coverage of at least 52 days of domestic cricket at a minimum in the first year and 72 days each in the second, third and fourth years. This coverage will be carried live on the satellite channel that has the international rights.

The rights for transmission of matches and related material through any mobile device, as film or on any fixed media remain with the BCCI. The licensee is also excluded from online / internet highlights of matches and award ceremonies.

Instead, either a BCCI website - for a duration of 60 minutes - or bona fide regional and international news services, who are granted a licence by the BCCI, will be vested with the right to exhibit footage of up to 90 seconds for each match and within 24 hours after the end of the particular match.