England fans face TV blackout of India tour

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The Independent Online

With the first Test in Nagpur beginning a week today, there was confusion last night over whether British cricket fans will be able to watch the present England tour to India on Sky TV or whether they will have to subscribe to one of two Indian satellite channels.

Sky have shown England games live every winter for the last 16 years, although have not shown every overseas tour in that time. But last weekend Indian cricket's four-year broadcast rights were sold for £352m to Nimbus Communications, a private television production and distribution company, who outbid nine other contenders.

Sky TV were reported to have offered £5m for secondary rights to the present England tour, and although Sky were refusing to comment last night, there were reports that they had been turned down by Nimbus - which would mean fans having to take out a subscription to either Zee TV or Sony TV Asia, the two satellite channels which are likely to be showing the match.

Another of the nine candidates is thought to be ARY Digital, a Pakistani satellite company. Sky have refused to comment on their position because of a confidentiality clause signed in preliminary negotiations.

Nimbus suggested at the weekend that they hoped to have concluded agreements on coverage by today. It is thought Nimbus is looking to agree deals lasting the full four years in all regions rather than sell off individual series, thus upping their return. In September 2004, the telecast rights were sold to Zee Telefilms for £177m, but the cricket board later cancelled the deal after another broadcaster, ESPN-Star Sports, took the issue to court.

The three-match series will be broadcast live on BBC Radio's Test Match Special, however, after they announced a deal which enables them to cover India's matches until 2010 acrosstheir entire network.