Home > industry > ESPN plans to customise global shows for India

New Delhi: Sports broadcaster ESPN Inc., which operates in India as Sony ESPN (a collaboration between ESPN Inc. and Sony Pictures Networks), is planning to customize its international shows like Pardon the Interruption and SportsCenter for the Indian market, in an effort to offer localised and differentiated content.

“We are exploring our international properties that can be exposed to the Indian market in a localised manner. We are currently looking at international brands in our portfolio like Pardon the Interruption and SportsCenter but everything is at the planning stage right now," said Jasdeep Pannu, head of television initiatives at ESPN India. The broadcaster currently offers the international version of Pardon the Interruption on Sony ESPN.

Pardon the Interruption is a sports show hosted by sports commentators Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, who discuss the top sports stories. SportsCenter is a sports news television programme, which reviews scores of major sporting events, along with commentary, analysis of upcoming games and other sports stories.

The broadcaster is also planning to bring X Games to India, an annual sports event which focuses on action sports like skateboarding and snowboarding, controlled and arranged by ESPN. “There is a growing segment of people who are interested in watching these games. It may be niche but a lot of people follow it," said Pannu, adding that X Games will tentatively be broadcast in January 2017 and other localized shows will be rolled out subsequently over the next few months.

The US-based broadcaster re-entered India in January 2016 and jointly launched new sports channels, a multi-sports website and a mobile app in partnership with Sony Pictures Networks.

Prior to that, ESPN had a sports broadcasting joint venture with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and operated as ESPN Star Sports (ESS) for 18 years till 2013. Sony ESPN currently holds rights to broadcast Serie A, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the ATP world tour series and the National Football League in India.

Last week, Sony ESPN had announced the introduction of sports-led documentaries showcasing the lives of sports legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Muhammad Ali, Diego Maradona and Andres Escobar for Indian audiences.

“We have shortlisted about 50 films for Indian market. The series will be shown weekly on Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD channels for 13 weeks, after which we will look at the feedback and see if any changes are required," said Pannu.

Prasana Krishnan, business head, sports cluster at Sony Pictures Network, said, “ESPN has perfected the art of sports entertainment in the US and the philosophy behind original programming is to replicate the success in India. ESPN Films and the local shows are a part of that objective."

Apart from Sony ESPN, Sony Pictures Networks operates Sony SIX and the recently acquired Ten Sports network in its sports cluster.

According to a report titled ‘The Business of Sports’, from consulting firm KPMG and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Indian sports sector is undergoing a sea change, with an increase in viewership, sponsorship and participation in sports other than cricket.

In 2015, the sports sponsorship market grew approximately 12% from a year ago to reach Rs5,190 crore, the report said. Of this, on-air sponsorships accounted for 52%, fuelled largely by new formats such as the Pro Kabaddi League and the Indian Super League.

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