News Corp forks out $335 mn to buy ESPN's 50% stake in ESS

News Corp forks out $335 mn to buy ESPN's 50% stake in ESS

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MUMBAI: $335 million. That?s the price Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp has to fork out to buy The Walt Disney Company-owned ESPN?s 50 per cent stake in their Asian joint-venture ESPN Star Sports (ESS).

Murdoch, keen to take full control of the sports broadcasting empire in Asia, will not have ESPN as the guarantor for $800 million of payment obligations of ESS towards rights acquired for sports events. News Corp will, thus, be the sole guarantor for the rights payment obligations now.These include payments that are to be made for the remaining tenure of the cricket properties like ICC (including World Cup) and Champions League.

"The value News Corp is paying is for gaining market strength in countries like India. The profit of the JV comes from the rest of Asia business. But India is a bigger bet for Murdoch," says a media analyst.

Walt Disney will recognise a gain of approximately $220 million ($165 million after tax) in the first quarter of 2013.

On 7 November, the company sold its 50 per cent equity interest in ESS, which operates 25 television networks and three broadband networks covering 24 markets in Asia.

News Corp had in June announced that it will take full control of ESS following ESPN?s decision to sell its 50 per cent stake in the JV which was formed 17 years back.

Before the JV was formed, ESPN competed with News Corps? Star Sports in India and Asia which saw the bids for sports rights spiral out of control. Hence the decision to come together and exploit the opportunities together in the nascent Asian market.

The stake sale marks the exit of ESPN from the Asian market due to a two-year non-compete clause. However, the company continues to be invested in Asia through its digital business which includes ESPNCricinfo, ESPNFC and ESPN Mobile.

Murdoch has expressed sudden aggression in the sports broadcasting business in the US as well. Gearing up to give ESPN a fight in the US, News Corp acquired in November 49 per cent stake in Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (Yes), the cable network channel owned by baseball team New York Yankees and its partners.

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