MUMBAI: The New Year might well be the beginning of battle between Walt Disney's ESPN and News Corp's Fox Sports Media Group (FSMG) for supremacy in the US sports broadcasting business.
Fox has taken the inorganic route to take on the market leader ESPN. Close on the heels of buying 49 per cent stake in Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (Yes), the News Corp-owned sports network has now snapped up SportsTime Ohio for $230 million.
The Cleveland-based regional sports network offers local telecasts of Cleveland Indians games.
Additionally, FSMG has secured the exclusive long-term local telecast rights for Indians baseball, ensuring that the Indians will once again be part of the Fox Sports portfolio of regionally televised hometown teams. Prior to the 2006 season, Indians games were locally televised by Fox Sports Ohio.
Fox Sports Ohio serves more than five million homes throughout the state of Ohio, as well as portions of Kentucky, Indiana, western Pennsylvania, western New York, and West Virginia. Fox Sports Ohio is the exclusive regional TV home of the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Crew, Xavier Musketeers, and Cincinnati Bearcats.
SportsTime Ohio also offers other locally relevant sports content, including Cleveland Browns programming, OHSAA football and basketball playoffs and championships, and Mid-American Conference events.
"The acquisition of SportsTime Ohio solidifies our business in Ohio, and Fox Sports Media Group's new long-term agreement with the Indians reunites the team with the FOX Sports family," said Fox Sports Networks EVP Jeff Krolik.
"We look forward to once again showcasing the Indians to their fans, as well as working with the Indians ownership to continue to enhance the value of this iconic franchise."
Cleveland Indians Chief Executive Officer Paul Dolan said, "We look forward to a long-term partnership with FOX that will continue to bring state-of-the-art broadcasts of Indians games to the fans while strengthening the franchise and enhancing our ability to build competitive teams."
Through its subsidiary Fox Sports Networks (FSN), Fox Sports Media Group runs 20 owned-and-operated regional sports networks, which collectively produce over 5,000 live local events each year and serve as the exclusive regional TV home to more than half of all MLB, NHL, and NBA teams.
In Asia, News Corp had acquired ESPN's 50 per cent stake in Asian sports broadcasting joint venture ESPN Star Sports for $335 million. It was followed by a $1.99 billion bid for a complete takeover of Australian billionaire Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings, which holds 50 per cent of Fox Sports and 25 per cent of Foxtel.