Star to take charge of News Corp?s sports biz in India; rest of Asia to be under FIC

Star to take charge of News Corp?s sports biz in India; rest of Asia to be under FIC

MUMBAI: After buying out Walt Disney?s stake in ESPN Star Sports (ESS), News Corp is restructuring its Asian sports broadcasting business. Star India will be in control of the sports business in India while it will be under Fox International Channels (FIC) in the rest of Asia.

The formal change in India will take place after News Corp?s acquisition gets the necessary regulatory approvals.

Though the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had in September cleared the deal, Star India chief operating officer Sanjay Gupta said some regulatory approvals were still to be obtained.

News Corp had taken full ownership of ESS by forking out $335 million for ESPN?s 50 per cent stake in the joint venture.

Gupta told Indiantelevision.com that the sports business will become part of Star India but would continue to function as a separate entity as it requires different set of expertise.

ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd (ESIPL), the India subsidiary of Asian sportscaster ESPN Star Sports (ESS), is headquartered in New Delhi and has a separate team that used to operate the joint venture company.

?The sports business requires a different mindset and a different set of expertise. Ad sales and distribution functions will, thus, continue to be managed by ESIPL, which will work closely with Star India,? Gupta explained.

It may be recalled that Star India, which holds the BCCI media rights till 2018, recently roped in ex-Hindustan Media Ventures Limited (HMVL) CEO Amit Chopra to steer its sports strategy in India. Star had acquired the BCCI media rights for Rs 38.51 billion.

In rest of Asia, Fox International Channels (FIC) Asia will manage all Fox Sports networks along with the current Star Sports, Fox Football Channel, Star Cricket and Star Cricket HD networks across various markets in the region with Peter Hutton at the helm.

"We are all part of the News Corp company. So we (FIC and Star India) will work together," a source familiar with the development said.

ESPN, which was today rebranded as Fox Sports in select markets in Asia, will continue to retain the brand name in India till the government clearance comes.

?We will continue with the ESPN brand name for some more time as the acquisition has not been completed in India. We are awaiting government clearance on transfer of assets,? Gupta said.

Star is yet to take a call whether to rebrand ESPN channel with the Star brand name, which is well-entrenched in India, or to adopt the Fox Sports name as is the case in rest of Asia.

?We are yet to take a call on what brand to replace the ESPN channel with in India. We are weighing two options. One is to have the Star name, which is a highly recognised brand in India, associated with it. The second option is to go with the Fox Sports brand which is News Corp?s well known sports brand in US,? Gupta averred.

Curtains on ESPN brand in Asia

FIC Asia today said beginning 28 January, the ESPN networks will be renamed as Fox Sports networks across various affiliate platforms in Asia.

The rebranding will first take effect in South East Asian countries. Among the countries that will first sport the new name include Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

As part of the rebranding, ESPN will renamed as Fox Sports, the high-definition channel ESPN HD as Fox Sports Plus (HD), sports news channel ESPNews as Fox Sports News, the broadband network ESPN Player as Fox Sports Play and the mobile service mobileESPN as Fox Sports Mobile.

?Sports has always been a driver genre in the TV business and with the addition of Fox Sports to FIC Asia?s portfolio, we are well poised to further our position as Asia?s leading network. We are looking to launch even more premium sports content in the near future and are committed to making Fox Sports the premiere destination for passionate sports fans,? said FIC Sports SVP Peter Hutton.

Fox Sports will also launch the new sports news programme Fox Sports Central to replace the current programme Sports Center. Additionally, foxsportsasia.com will be the new online destination in place of espnstar.com for comprehensive, real time and authoritative content across an unrivalled breadth of sports news, editorial opinions, scores and more.

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