ESS wins South Asia broadcast, mobile & internet rights to EPL soccer

MUMBAI: In a bidding battle that finally became a three-horse race, ESPN Star Sports has won exclusive broadcast rights for the Barclays English Premier League (EPL) for the Indian subcontinent for the next three seasons through to 2010.

Incumbent ESS beat back bids by Zee Sports and Nimbus Sport to secure the EPL rights. Yes TV, which is owned by Malysian firm Astro and had made a pan-Asian bid, withdrew from the bid process in the last round.

The agreement grants ESS the right to broadcast 370 matches per season throughout India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Mongolia and the Maldives via television, broadband and mobile technologies.

Commenting on the acquisition, ESS managing director Jamie Davis said: “Our Company has been the catalyst for increasing the popularity of the EPL in India, ordinarily a cricket crazy nation. Our world class studio shows, intensive marketing campaigns, and localisation efforts including the introduction of Hindi commentary have made the EPL a highly watched sports property. We are very excited to continue our efforts to deliver the best of English football to the growing breed of football fans across India and the subcontinent. Our strong relationship with the FA Premier League has been built on our commitment to grow the EPL brand via live matches and over 400 hours annually of original, football programming.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said: “ESPN Star Sports has indeed played a key role in growing the EPL brand in India. Their commitment to sports and to the EPL specifically gives us the confidence that this is the right partnership for the Premier League. As we move into an age of new media and all the flexibility and possibilities that come with this new technology, we are certain that this relationship will continue to flourish to the benefit of fans across the subcontinent.”

ESS’ array of original support programming for the EPL includes Nokia Football Crazy, Football Focus, Goals, Tiger FC Locker Room, Here We Go, Tiger First Edition and Football Extra. Over 200 million viewers across Asia tune into the EPL matches and packaged programmes each week. This season’s addition of Club EPL, Paula’s Perfect Ten and Jamie’s Greatest Hits further expands the overall football demographic to target women and youth.

“Keeping the young fans in mind we plan to enhance our EPL offering on mobileESPN substantially. Football fans can look forward to getting live scores, match schedules, player statistics, contests and much more from mobileESPN going forward,” said Sricharan Iyengar, vice-president, New Media and Marketing, ESPN Software India.

ESS has also extended its agreement with the FA Premier League to 12 other countries; Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, North Korea, Brunei, The Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan and Macau. These rights also include television, mobile and internet platforms.

The lucrative territories where ESS has lost out include Singapore, where pay TV operator Starhub won and Hong Kong which went to PCCW. ESS has also not managed to retain the rights for China and Thailand, which went to Guangdong Soccer channel and UBC respectively.

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