When ESPN, the American sports broadcaster, decided to sever its 18-year-old ties with Star sports, sports lovers across South East Asia mourned. It was a great loss as many legendary programmes, like Sports Center, vanished overnight. It was like a daily dose of cocaine for the sports buff, and its disappearance sent any in withdrawal for a long time.
ESPN is coming back to India now, but it is coming in partnership with Sony. After the historic split with STAR, there was a clause that prevented ESPN from sports broadcasting in India for three years. There is no denying the fact that ESPN’s move to collaborate with MSM – Sony Pictures Networks – shook many pundits’ calculations, turned it upside down. However, it was a move dictated by the realities of the market. According to observers, the Sony-ESPN deal is in line with the forceful growth strategy allotted for the sports channels, it is the need of the hour. You either perform, or perish!
Speaking to Economic Times, Prasana Krishnan, EVP & Business Head for Sports, Sony Pictures Networks India, said: “Sports is a very important vertical for us and we have been investing aggressively in this area. Our portfolio now includes some of the biggest events and leagues and we have been setting new benchmarks in sports coverage. ESPN shares similar values and is an acknowledged leader, both, in India and worldwide.”
“So this combination of Sony Pictures and ESPN promises to set new benchmarks and enhance the viewership experiences of sports fans,” he said.
ESPN is scheduled to launch a co-branded localized multisport website and app, which will provide coverage of cricket, football, tennis, the NBA, badminton, field hockey and more. SONY LIV will also benefit from the collaboration, increasing its current sports offerings significantly. ESPNcricinfo will complement and cross-promote the new digital properties and sports channels.
How Star Sports reacts to this new development, only time will tell. Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure. The competition and high stakes to acquire sports properties will reach unprecedented heights now.