Mumbai, Jun 3: With Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) cancelling its licence for telecast rights of Team India's matches played at home, broadcaster Neo Sports has been forced to re-brand its exclusive cricket channel as an all sports channel.
The broadcaster has renamed its Neo Cricket channel as Neo Prime, so as to telecast other sports on the channel.
"The reality is that we don't have the BCCI rights anymore. So long as we had the BCCI rights, we also covered domestic matches to some extent, so it made sense to have a dedicated exclusive cricket channel.
"But now we realise that it may not be useful to have a 24x7 cricket channel. Therefore, it makes more sense to position it this way," Neo Sports broadcast (TV operations) chief operating officer Prasanna Krishnan said.
BCCI scrapped the contract with its broadcast rights holder Nimbus Communications, the promoter of Neo Sports, last December for defaulting on payments and forfeited a bank guarantee amount of Rs 2,000 crore.
Nimbus had signed a four-year deal with BCCI in October, 2009 for Rs 2,000 crore.
On if Neo Sports could have launched a new channel without sacrificing its exclusive cricket channel, Krishnan said, "Cricket can also be telecast on Neo Prime or Neo Sports. We thought we would go with this strategy rather than launch a third channel at this time."
Neo Cricket was the first to have a round-the-clock cricket-centric content and its competitors followed suit. Broadcast major ESPN-Star has its exclusive channel for cricket - Star Cricket, while Zee Enterprises operated Ten Sports has Ten Cricket.
With Neo Sports having a surge in volume across multiple sports and limited India cricket content, the broadcaster expects it can have live telecast of all the sporting action.
"We have been focusing on five other sports apart from cricket like golf, football, tennis, badminton and hockey. The volume of sports content that we picked up was so huge that we started facing scheduling problem. It became difficult to show multiple sports at the same time because we had one cricket channel and one other sports channel," Krishnan said.
On if the revenues are affected because of the fallout of the BCCI contract, he said, "It doesn't make much of a difference. While cricket comes with huge ad revenues, it also has a corresponding high cost. Cricket is very expensive. People don't necessarily make profit on cricket these days, is my view."
However, he did not divulge the revenue expectation for the year.
With the availability of sports content in high definition, Neo Prime will gradually adopt itself to the new format, he added.
"All the high definition content which is ready will go into Neo Prime. Once we are happy with volume of content, we will then transition into a high definition channel. That is the road map. We haven't taken a decision on the timeline yet. We will review it in the next few months," he said.
Neo, the number two sports channel in the country, has been acquiring some of the biggest sporting events including UEFA Euro 2012, French Open, World Series Hockey, Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Rugby World Cup in addition to the existing bouquet of the Asia Cup, Davis Cup, US PGA Tour, BWF Badminton Super Series, Fed Cup.