So it’s official. NBC Universal Digital Solutions (NBCUDS) has partnered with Ten Sports to launch TenSports.com, a free, cricket-focused multiplatform sports portal. The site will begin live streaming with the Compaq Cup, a triangular Cricket series between India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka starting on September 8, 2009. The portal will be owned and operated by NBCUDS, and will expand its content offerings to include other sports in the future. NBCUDS will also syndicate live cricket Webcast to its selected syndication partners for wider distribution. Sab Kanaujia, Vice President, Digital Product Strategy & Development, NBC Universal, will be managing this new business

Given that Ten Sports owns rights to content from the Cricket boards of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the portal will target an audience from the sub-continent and the Middle East. What the deal also facilitates, is the availability of Ten Sports’ digital archival content. According to a release from the companies, the archive will also be made available to mobile users.

The Challenge: Monetization

Remember that Live Current Media bet big on the online Cricket business in India, and eventually had to exit the business. It’s one thing to have the content – both live and archival – but quite another to monetize views. During the Indian Premier League, I watched the free live streaming from IPLT20.com in India: it was a clean feed with no advertising. NBCUDS has brought on board Vdopia as its exclusive third party digital ad sales parter, and are also deploying their advertising platform. I don’t think NBCUDS and Ten Sports had much of an option, besides streaming the content free, and trying to monetize with advertising. The pay-per-view subscription based model that Nimbus tried at CricketNirvana wouldn’t have found many takers.

Vdopia will also have its work cut out: I doubt that matches at TenSports.com that don’t involve India will find many takers, both in terms of viewers and advertisers from India. India is the financial hub for Cricket in India. Apart from this, most viewers are likely to watch the game online from offices, and I wonder how many offices will allow employees to watch Cricket while at work. Vdopia will represent the Ten Sports content on tensports.com as well as on syndication partner Web sites.

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