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Sahara gets England series

Feb. 25: Sahara One Television and Doordarshan will telecast live the England series, beginning on March 1, after a deal with Nimbus Communications that has the BCCI contract to show all international matches being played in India.

Nimbus announced today that it had struck deals with both channels, which are free-to-air. While it will share revenues with Doordarshan on a 75:25 basis, details of the Sahara deal were not disclosed. It is not known if Sahara is paying any money for the feed, but Nimbus will market the commercial airtime.

“We partnered Doordarshan and Sahara One to reach the matches to more people ' something sports channels can’t with their limited reach ' and maximise revenues,” Harish Thawani, chairman of Nimbus Sport, said.

A senior official of PDM, which handles Sahara One, said although it might not get much out of the deal financially, the channel was hoping for long-term benefits.

“Sahara One, as is known, is up for sale and the channel management feels this deal will raise not just its brand value but also distribution and viewership, which has been a nagging problem,” the official said.

Apart from showing the matches ' three Tests and seven one-dayers ' and Nimbus-produced pre- and post-match wrap-around capsules, Sahara will also promote the series through its movie ' FILMY ' and news channels.

Akash Khurana, MD & CEO, Nimbus, said: “Our choice of the Sahara One platform was dictated by the fact that the channel has near 100 per cent distribution in cable homes compared to sports channels that barely reach 50 per cent of cable homes; and by the amazing commitment and vision for cricket of the Sahara India Pariwar.”

But the big question being asked by media observers is whether Nimbus will be able to make any money out of the deals. Since both channels are free-to-air, Nimbus cannot earn any subscription, a key revenue factor.

“Once subscription is taken out, it’s a tough task. With ad rates remaining fairly stagnant for cricket, Nimbus can at best make around Rs 150 crore from this series,” said an official of a media buying agency.

Nimbus, a production house, has bought the BCCI contract to show all international matches to be played in India till March 2010 for $612 million. But since it does not own channels, it had to find a partner.

On Friday, Nimbus also closed a deal with Murdoch’s BSkyB TV channel for telecast of the series in the UK. Sky agreed to pay '10 million after hard bargaining, sources said.

Thawani said the rest of the telecast rights ' over 165 days of cricket till 2010 ' will be sold together.

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