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Nimbus moving to a new pitch


9 Feb 2011
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Nimbus Communications is looking at life beyond cricket and is launching two new channels – Neo Cinema (based on Bollywood) and Neo Zindagi (a lifestyle channel for women) in June.

Nimbus will also pitch for rights management of other sports such as soccer, golf and the World Series Hockey (IPL-like version for domestic hockey in India).

“Last year,almost 90 per cent of our revenues came from cricket but we would like to see it come down to 70-odd per cent with new channels and other sports that we will bring in 2011,” says Nimbus Chairman Harish Thawani.
Even though uplinking and downlinking licences for the two new channels are yet to come through, Thawani is upbeat. “We believe the approval is in the final stages and we expect the same in the next few weeks.”

“We have hired 20 creative staff who will produce at least 50-60 per cent of the content for the channels while the rest will be sourced from others,” says Thawani.

Talks are on to acquire television broadcasting rights of old and new Bollywood movies for telecast on Neo Cinema. Thawani says the company has decided to invest more in filmed entertainment and home video business.

Till date, Nimbus has produced three films and distributed 10 feature films and has four Showtime Video stores in Mumbai.

To fund all this, Nimbus is getting ready to float an initial public offer in March this year to raise around Rs 750 crore. The company incurred Rs 142.39 crore loss in FY 2010. Thawani, along with his wife and other entities own 29 per cent of the company that will be diluted to 23.6 per cent post public issue.

Its joint venture company, Neo Sports Broadcast, owns and operates two 24-hour channels, Neo Cricket and Neo Sports that has operations in India, Singapore, UK, South Africa and the Caribbean.

Private equity firm 3i, which is the single largest shareholder in Nimbus with 30 per cent, is not diluting its stake. 3i had invested a total of Rs 350 crore in multiple tranches.

In the broadcasting business, Nimbus competes with various sports channels, including ESPN and Ten Sports. Keen on developing a portfolio of sporting events including hockey, golf and football, the 51 year-old Thawani says the 15-year deal between Nimbus Sports and the Indian Hockey Federation can transform the way hockey is played.

Nimbus Sport currently provides high definition outdoor broadcast equipment and related technical services for various international and domestic events of the BCCI. These events include the IPL from 2012 onwards.

Also on cards is expansion of Neo Cricket in North America that has a sizeable Indian diaspora. Neo Broadcast recently set up a subsidary called Neo Broadcast America.

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