HT Media forms joint venture with football portal

HT Media has acquired 50.5% stake in Sports Asia Pte Ltd, a JV with Minute Media; deal will mark the launch of football website 90min in India


The launch of 90min in India will serve football fans in South Asia in English and later in Hindi.
The launch of 90min in India will serve football fans in South Asia in English and later in Hindi.

New Delhi: HT Media Ltd, publisher of Hindustan Times and Mint newspapers, has announced a joint venture with sports media and technology firm Minute Media, which owns two leading football content sites, to diversify its digital content offerings.

The joint venture is called Sports Asia Pte. Ltd. HT Media has acquired a 50.5% stake in the venture for an undisclosed amount through HT Overseas Pte Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary incorporated in Singapore. The announcement was made in a stock exchange statement on Tuesday.

Minute Media runs football content sites 90min and 12up. The deal, expected to be completed by the first week of July, will mark the launch of 90min in India with an app and a website.

HT Media operates jobs portal Shine.com and entertainment and movie reviews site desimartini.com in the digital media sector.

The launch of 90min in India will serve football fans in South Asia in English and later in Hindi. Built on socially driven technology, the new site will offer the latest news, commentary, statistics and visuals on global football to a market where the sport is becoming increasingly popular.

It will directly compete with sports websites such as ESPN in India. 90min has 55 million unique visitors at present, the company said.

Rajiv Verma, group chief executive at HT Media, said the idea was to bring together football fans and HT Media’s established reach with audiences, brands and customers.

“We are very pleased to partner with 90min.com, the fastest growing soccer site in the world with over 50 million monthly users, and bring to India 90min.in which will provide a platform for the massively expanding number of soccer fans in the country to engage with and be a part of the global soccer community and conversation.

“In the coming months, we intend to build scale into this hyper-connected fan platform, covering of course all of the best of global soccer and the biggest global tournaments, but also the fast emerging Indian soccer leagues, teams and players,” said Verma.

Asaf Peled, founder and CEO of Minute Media, said the strategic partnership with HT Media will introduce its open technology platform to the Indian market and give a powerful voice to the growing number of football fans across India.

“India is not just home to one of the world’s largest football fan bases, at 170 million and growing, but more than 20 million football fans are already active on social media. That’s where our content comes in. We see a tremendous need to provide brands, publishers, and fans with a platform to generate and share football-related content across web, mobile and social-based channels,” said Peled.

In October 2015, the company closed a $15 million round of funding, bringing its total funding to $45 million, led by leading venture capital firms Battery Ventures, Dawn Capital, Gemini Ventures, North Base Media and ProSieben.

“A football match lasts 90 minutes. 90min is the place football fans can go online or on mobile in the 146 and a half hours every week when their favourite teams aren’t on the pitch,” said Marcus Brauchli, managing partner of North Base Media, a minority investor in both 90min India and Minute Media and a partner of HT Media in the MediaHack accelerator.

In December, HT Overseas acquired a 5% stake in Singapore-based DealStreetAsia Pte Ltd for an undisclosed amount. The digital media firm, which competes with VCCircle, began operations in December 2014 and covers India and South-East Asia.

HT Media’s direct competitor Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (BCCL), publisher of The Times of India and The Economic Times newspapers, is also betting big on sports.

In March, BCCL’s digital arm—Times Internet Ltd—acquired US-based cricket broadcaster Willow TV International Inc. Willow was the first international acquisition by Times Internet.

In November 2014, Times Internet acquired cricket news and information portal Cricbuzz.com from Bengaluru-based Akuate Internet Services Pvt Ltd. After the acquisition, Cricbuzz was merged with Times Internet’s cricket news portal GoCricket.

Times Internet also signed a strategic partnership last year with Perform Group’s football portal Goal to deliver content worldwide. Under the deal, Times Internet will have exclusive rights to the Goal brand in India and will drive local commercialization of Goal across both desktop and mobile platforms.

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