MSM & ESPN collaborate to launch sports channels in India; Sony Kix rebranded

MUMBAI: Disney's sports broadcaster ESPN, which exited the Indian market in 2012, is yet again eyeing the lucrative market here albeit with a different joint venture partner. 


After dissolving its 50:50 joint venture with Star India in 2012, ESPN has now joined hands with Multi Screen Media (MSM). The two companies have entered into a long-term agreement in India and the Indian subcontinent.


Through the collaboration, MSM and ESPN will bring new offerings including new co-branded sports channels and as well as a multi-sport website and app. The companies will also be exploring avenues on developing original sports programs.


As a part of this deal, MSM’s sports channel Sony Kix will be rebranded as Sony ESPN. The two companies will also launch other new channels in the coming months. Along with Sony Six, all the channels will deliver a powerful sports lineup to sports fans.


In collaboration with MSM, ESPN will launch a co-branded localized multisport website and app, which will provide coverage of cricket, football, tennis, the NBA, badminton, field hockey and more.


MSM’s OTT platform Sony Liv will also benefit from the collaboration, increasing its current sports offerings significantly. 


ESPNcricinfo, the digital cricket destination in India and globally, will continue to deliver comprehensive coverage and will complement and cross-promote the new digital properties and sports channels.


Among the new co-branded multisport website, and, sports fan will receive sports content from across categories, geographies and time zones.


There will be a robust social media presence for the new co-branded media platforms and, an online programming guide for television.


Components of the collaboration require regulatory approvals, for which the process is currently underway.


Multi Screen Media CEO NP Singh said, “Our partnership with ESPN is just what the sports aficionado has been waiting for. Stylized, insightful sports content presented by the best sportscasters in the business. For consumers in India and the subcontinent, sports television viewing will change dramatically since they will soon have access not only to more content but also the widest array of sports lineup, ever available.”


He further added, “MSM’s association with ESPN is holistic and embraces both television and digital formats. Not only are we about to set the frontiers in sports content and distribution but we will most likely set the trends as well. Going further, both companies will also explore collaboration on the development of other original sports programs.”


ESPN International executive vice president and managing director Russell Wolff said, “ESPN’s focus around the world is simple: to serve sports fans. This exciting, long-term collaboration between ESPN and MSM will serve Indian sports fans with exceptional products, content and coverage through the combined strengths and expertise of our two companies, which each have a strong heritage of leadership and innovation in India. We are very excited to be working with Sony, one of the leading television channels in India, on the opportunities that lie ahead.”


MSM’s current sports rights portfolio in India includes the UEFA Euro 2016, top European football leagues (including La Liga, The FA Cup and Serie A), the NBA, the NFL, the IRB Rugby World Cup, UFC, TNA Wrestling and NASCAR amongst others.


ESPN will add to that by delivering more than 1000 hours of programming per year from its portfolio of sports rights, original programming and studio programs. Live sports content in the deal includes major US college football (including the College Football Playoff and comprehensive coverage of the college football bowl season); major US college basketball (including the March Madness NCAA Championship Tournaments); NCAA college sport championships from baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer; Boxing (including Premier Boxing Champions and ESPN’s Big Fights Library); X Games; ESPN Films Emmy-Award Winning 30 For 30 documentaries amongst others.


In its previous 16 year long stint in India via the joint venture with Star India, ESPN Software India operated ESPN Star Sports' India ops. The channels under it included ESPN, Star Sports and Star Cricket. Over the last few years post the exit of ESPN, Star India's sports game has been upped by several notches with the launch of multiple sports channels under the Star Sports brand name as well as lucrative leagues for sports  such as Kabbadi, football et al.


With MSM and ESPN's ambitous plans to launch multiple sports channels as well as original sports properties, the sports broadcasting scenario is likely to receive a major impetus. Moreover, with competition heating up in the space, when the rights for the marquee tournament - Indian Premier League (IPL) come up for bidding again in 2019 the acquisition price is likely to sky rocket.

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