Neo Cricket rebranded following loss of BCCI rights

Pay-television broadcaster Neo Sports has rebranded its cricket channel following the loss of its rights deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) governing body.

The Neo Cricket channel has been renamed as Neo Prime to reflect plans to cover other sports.

“The reality is that we don’t have the BCCI rights anymore,” Neo Sports’ broadcast chief operating officer Prasanna Krishnan said, according to the Press Trust of India agency. “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 24-seven cricket channel. Therefore, it makes more sense to position it this way.”

Krishnan said that the rebranding of the channel would also allow for better scheduling of programmes across Neo Prime and its sister channel, Neo Sports.

“We have been focusing on five other sports apart from cricket like golf, football, tennis, badminton and hockey,” he said. “The volume of sports content that we picked up was so huge that we started facing scheduling problems. It became difficult to show multiple sports at the same time because we had one cricket channel and one other sports channel.”

In December, the governing body cancelled its broadcast rights partnership with Neo’s parent company, Nimbus Communications, after accusing the agency of failing to pay rights fees on time. Under the now defunct deal, which was due to run from 2010 to 2014, Nimbus exploited the rights for India national team Test, one-day international and Twenty20 matches, as well as some domestic tournaments in India, on Neo Cricket.

When asked whether Neo’s revenues would be affected by the BCCI partnership being curtailed, Krishnan 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, in my view.”