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For FIFA coverage, ESPN's perfect assist to Sony

ESPN India is happy with its partnership with Sony

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MUMBAI: The 2018 FIFA World Cup has been quite a show already. For fans, the tournament’s been nothing short of a thrill-a-minute ride with sheer drama and constant surprises on offer. The steady state of suspense during key matches has enabled Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India, the event’s official broadcaster in India, rake up its viewership numbers. What’s also helped is SPN’s partnership with ESPN India that has brought fans as close to the action as possible.

Apart from telecasting the Malayalam regional feed of the showpiece event, ESPN is also leveraging its digital platforms to increase the viewers' engagement through wrap around shows for the tournament. 

Despite it being a non-rights player, ESPN has more than 150 people covering the event in Russia. 

ESPN India’s head of television initiatives Jasdeep Pannu says, “With the studio facility in Moscow, all of that is coming back to help our partners in various parts of the world including Sony in their coverage.” 

ESPN has rolled out a holistic set of content programming which includes a unique country-wide sports-travel show ‘The Last Train to Russia’ on Sony TEN (HD/SD), a daily match day analysis show called ‘Free Kick’ which is presented by ESPN anchors.

ESPN’s Moscow is providing content for 17 hours a day via four feeds that can transmit simultaneously. The feeds are also helping fuel ESPN’s partners' coverage across the globe, including Africa (Kwese), China (Tencent), India (Sony) and the Philippines (TV 5).

ESPN has also launched the ESPN FC Match Predictor – the first truly global game, created in three languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese) across 13 global editions of ESPN.com – it gives fans a chance to pick the winners for each World Cup round.

On the deal with Sony, Pannu said, “It’s a fantastic collaboration with a lot of synergy between the two brands. Sony has been very intelligent with their rights management and acquisition. They have got the biggest ongoing show in the world.”

The challenge ESPN faces pertains to delivering the relevant content to keep the fans engaged as the mass audience gravitates towards all the sports right owners.

However, Pannu believes that event rights are not the only way forward.

“The rights guys are too busy focusing on the rights to look at non-rights content like we do," he says.

ESPN has also seen strong growth on the digital front across the sub-continent. 

In terms of unique visitors between January to September 2017, ESPN’s digital platform witnessed a 24 per cent growth y-o-y. In India, 78 per cent of the traffic to ESPN digital (sites+app) comes from mobile devices which has growth at 150 per cent y-o-y.

ESPN's digital platform is also planning to target a larger group going forward by increasing its reach to the Hindi speaking audience, along with some regional languages like Tamil and Bengali.

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