England's Test series in India may not be broadcast on either television or radio in the United Kingdom. Only 10 days before the First Test begins in Nagpur no contracts have been signed or rights awarded, and the prospect is growing of silence on the airwaves for the first time in generations.
Both Sky Sport TV and BBC Radio, who expected to cover the matches, have commentary and production teams ready to fly out to the subcontinent. But they will not know until Wednesday at the earliest if they have secured deals, and they may be priced out of the market. The broadcasters are annoyed - angrier than they will say in public - but helpless.
Failing to air the three- match Test series and seven one-day games would be a blow for both organisations. The BBC have trumpeted their radio coverage since losing TV rights at home, and have tried to ensure that where England go, Test Match Special follows.
Sky have received unprecedented criticism for securing exclusive live rights to televise England's home matches, and not to show the team playing abroad is precisely what they do not want. Although the station would be blameless, many would say that now they have the home rights, the away matches are less important to them. Worse still for Sky, at least from a public relations viewpoint, is the possibility that the matches could be shown on another satellite channel in Britain.
The delay has been caused because the recently appointed Board of Control for Cricket in India awarded their television rights for the next four years only on Friday. They caused astonishment not only by arrang-ing an exclusive deal covering TV, radio and internet rights, but also by the identity of the winners, Nimbus, a marketing and production company without a TV channel, and the price, an unprecedented $613 million (£350m). Nimbus can now sell secondary rights to whoever they want after ensuring the state broadcasters, Doordarshan, are provided with a feed in line with government decree.
The satellite sports channels will still be desperate for screening rights and the favourites are Zee TV, who have a history of co-operation with Nimbus. This raises the possibility that Zee may show the England series on their European channel, which is available in Britain. Viewers who pay only for the Sky package would have to take out an extra subscription.
The BBC will not bid to show the series on TV. They might have gained PR points after the clamour surrounding the Sky dom-estic deal, but a spokes-woman cited the Winter Olympics, the Commonwealth Games plus FA Cup and Six Nations as leaving no time in the schedules.
Sky were saying nothing publicly, but have been kept waiting before. Some have suggested that they might have to pay too much, but equally, having paid such a hug fee themselves, Nimbus have to recoup money, no matter how small the amount, from somewhere.Reuse content