Home >industry >media >We never left India; ESPN has been active here consistently since 1996: Russell Wolff

New Delhi: After three years, international sports broadcaster ESPN Inc. is all set for its second innings in India. On Wednesday, Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd said ESPN and Sony 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.

In an email interview, Russell Wolff, the executive vice-president and managing director of ESPN International who is based out of New York, talked about the sports brand’s new journey in India, business potential of the market and why ESPN chose Sony as a partner. Edited excerpts:

What are your reasons for coming back to India?

Actually, we never left India. ESPN has been active in India consistently since 1996. In recent years our business has been digitally led. We’re thrilled to be working with a world-class company like Sony MSM and once again have a multiscreen business in India—with television, mobile and online. It will be great for sports fans in India and make the most of the expertise and unmatched strength of both of our companies.

How do you view India’s business potential?

India is an extremely vibrant and fast-moving market. We have been active here for nearly two decades and see a great opportunity.

Given your experience in the country, why didn’t ESPN launch on its own?

This agreement (with MSM) was a unique opportunity to bring together the strengths that each of our companies had. We always examine each market and each opportunity individually and this was the right way to serve sports fans and good for our business and Sony MSM.

How much do you plan to invest in the Indian market through this deal?

We don’t discuss financial information publicly. However, this agreement, as well as our investments in Espncricinfo and our heritage with ESPN Star Sports illustrate that we have made significant commitments in India.

What are the terms of the deal with Sony? Is it a joint venture? How many years is the deal for?

We don’t discuss the specific terms of deals. However, this is a long-term agreement.

What were the key reasons for you to exit the Indian market three years ago?

Actually, we did not exit India. We sold our stake in ESPN Star Sports, so our business just changed. It became a digitally-led business, behind Espncricinfo. The ESPN brand remains very strong and respected in India. We are very excited about the opportunity to build on that with this new agreement and through Sony ESPN branded digital and TV platforms.

How do you view Sony from a sports broadcaster stand point?

Sony is among the leading media brands in India and has a fantastic portfolio of sports rights. When you combine that with our expertise, content and digital leadership, it will deliver exceptional products and coverage to Indian consumers and advertisers.

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