Sunday, August 20, 2006

Digital Broadcasters | India Neo Sports on Track

India-based, Digital broadcaster to be, content producer and sports rights holder, Nimbus Communications Ltd has named the first of its three planned TV sports networks scheduled to commence transmissions, as Neo Sports. Launch date, October 2006.

A new company has been formed to be the holding company for the company's sports broadcast business in India, Nimbus Sports Broadcast Limited.

Meanwhile, according to a Nimbus statement obtained by Digital Broadcasters Vendor News Asia, the international broadcast TV operations of Nimbus will be centered on Singapore. There the company has been registered as Nimbus Media Private Limited.

The COO has been named as Scott Ferguson, who had been heading sports broadcasting at PayTV operator Orbit serving the Middle East out of Rome.

Earlier this year, Nimbus Communications surprised the broadcasting industry by bidding USD612 million for four years of exclusive rights to ICC India Cricket rights.

Nimbus needed its own TV networks to carry the Cricket and other programming.

As a result, Neo Sports will be the flagship cricket centric sports channel.

The second channel will focus on sports entertainment, not restricting itself to merely sports events but also broadcasting sports-themed entertainment programs, and is scheduled to commence broadcasting from April 2007.

The third channel will be a sports news service and will launch September 2007.

Nimbus believes that the introduction in India in 2006 of three new DTH platforms in addition to the existing DishTV (not counting Doordarshan's service) will provide a major new thrust to cricket channels to help drive subscription revenues. This will be in addition to revenues from cableTV distribution.

Nimbus plans to provide separate TV network feeds to DTH (HDTV, interactive, multiple languages), cable (SDTV customised, English/ Hindi) and DD (basic feed).

Phase One of the three channels TV project is costing over 3 billion rupees (approximately USD67 million) with a further Rs 1.5 billion ($ 33 million) in Phase 2.

As of April, Nimbus’ largest outside investor was 3i Group plc, listed on the London Stock Exchange (III.L). The UK-based private equity and venture capital fund has a 33% holding. Harish Thawani, Nimbus founder & executive chairman holds 54%.

Anil Ahuja, MD and co-head Asia, 3i Group said in April that 3i was not interested in raising its stake (USD45 million) it took out in August 2005. “We have no plans of raising any fresh equity in Nimbus,” Mr Ahuja added. Nimbus plans to start a sports channel to capitalise on the cricket rights. It wants to ensure that any funds it might raise now will be enough to cover initial losses the channel could suffer. A further USD30 million was raised from Deutsche Bank, with the option of a further USD30 million.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Nimbus has commissioned Singapore-based, broadcast design company, Brandspeed to design the image and branding for Nimbus Sports so that Neo Sports can be launched as planned.

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