ESPN returns to South Asia with MSM joint venture


Rebecca Hawkes

| 08 October 2015

Sports broadcaster ESPN is returning to the Indian market after a three-year absence by forging an equal partnership with Multi Screen Media (MSM), Sony Television's local operator.

Disney-owned ESPN, which dissolved its 50:50 joint venture with Star India in 2012, says it will now work with MSM to bring co-branded sports channels and a multi-sport website and app to the Indian subcontinent.

MSM's sports channel Sony Kix will be rebranded as Sony ESPN, with new pay-TV channels set for launch in coming months.

The two companies will also "explore collaboration" on development of sports programmes, they said in a statement.

MSM's over-the-top (OTT) platform Sony LIV will "significantly" increase its current sports offerings through the collaboration, the two broadcasters said. The digital portal ESPNcricinfo will continue to deliver cricket coverage and will complement and cross-promote the new digital properties and sports channels.

"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 line-up, ever available," said NP Singh, CEO, Multi Screen Media.

"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."

ESPN International executive vice president and managing director Russell Wolff added: "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."

MSM's current sports rights portfolio in India includes football from UEFA Euro 2016, La Liga, the FA Cup and Serie A, as well as NBA, NFL, IRB Rugby World Cup, UFC, TNA Wrestling and NASCAR.

ESPN will bring 1,000 hours of programming a year to the party from its portfolio of sports rights, original programming and studio programmes. Live sports includes US college football (including the College Football Playoff and the college football bowl season); 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; and ESPN Films.