Home / Industry / ESPN returns to India in tie-up with Sony

New Delhi: Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSM), which operates Sony channels in India, and US-based sports broadcaster ESPN Inc. will jointly launch new sports channels, a multi-sports website and a mobile app in India, among several other initiatives planned under a long-term agreement announced on Wednesday.

According to N.P. Singh, chief executive, Multi Screen Media, MSM’s association with ESPN is “holistic" and embraces both television and digital formats. “Not only are we about to set the frontiers in sports content and distribution but we will most likely set the trends as well. Going further, both companies will also explore collaboration on the development of other original sports programmes," he said in a statement.

Sony is the official broadcaster of popular T20 tournament Indian Premier League till 2017.

The deal with ESPN will include the launch of a co-branded television channel—SONY ESPN—along with other new channels to be launched in the coming months. In collaboration with MSM, ESPN will launch a co-branded localised multisport website and mobile app, which will provide coverage of cricket, football, tennis, the National Basketball Association (NBA), badminton, field hockey among others. Sony’s existing sports portfolio includes three channels: Sony Six, Sony Kix and Sony Six HD.

MSM will retain its brand Sony Six while Sony Kix will be rebranded as SONY ESPN.

Russell Wolff, executive vice-president and managing director, ESPN international, said, “ESPN’s focus around the world is simple: to serve sports fans. This exciting, long-term collaboration between ESPN and MSM will serve Indian sports fans with exceptional products, content and coverage through the combined strengths and expertise of our two companies, which each have a strong heritage of leadership and innovation in India. We are very excited to be working with Sony, one of the leading television channels in India, on the opportunities that lie ahead," said Wolff.

ESPN Star Sports (ESS), the 18-year-old sports broadcasting joint venture between ESPN International and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., split its India business two years ago.

In India, ESPN’s digital portfolio is led by ESPNcricinfo, the leading digital cricket destination in India and globally, with more than 20 years of leadership. It is joined by other growing properties including ESPNFC.com (global football) and the upcoming multisport site in association with Sony. There will be a robust social media presence for the new co-branded media platforms and, an online programming guide for television.

According to the company, components of the collaboration require regulatory approvals, for which the process is currently underway.

A month after its split with ESPN, Star India announced a commitment of over 20,000 crore to sports in India in November 2013 with the launch of six new sports channels under the Star Sports banner.

In the last few years, Star has put its weight behind the Indian Badminton League, Hockey India League, the Indian Super League (football), and the Pro Kabaddi League.

MSM’s current sports rights portfolio in India includes the UEFA Euro 2016, top European football leagues (including La Liga, The FA Cup and Serie A), the NBA, the National Football League (NFL), the IRB (International Rugby Board) Rugby World Cup, Ultimate Fighting Championship (mixed martial arts), TNA Wrestling, NASCAR (The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) among others.

ESPN will add to that by delivering more than 1,000 hours of programming per year from its portfolio of sports rights, original programming and studio programmes.

Live sports content part of the deal includes major US college football (including the College Football Playoff and comprehensive coverage of the college football bowl season); major US college basketball (including the March Madness NCAA Championship Tournaments); NCAA college sport championships from baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer; boxing (including Premier Boxing Champions and ESPN’s Big Fights Library); X Games; ESPN Films’ Emmy-Award-winning 30 For 30 documentaries and more.

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